September 15, 2003

Johnny Cash Funeral Held Near Nashville

Family and friends of music legend Johnny Cash paid tribute Monday at a funeral in the same church where he mourned the death of wife, June Carter Cash, in May.

Cash, 71, died Friday of respiratory failure caused by complications from diabetes. He had been in declining health for years.

Former Vice President Al Gore, a Tennessee native, attended the private service at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville. A public memorial was also being planned.

Many celebrities from the music world attended, such as country singers Vince Gill and Hank Williams Jr., hard rock/rap star Kid Rock and singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson.

Kristofferson, who wrote Cash's 1970 hit "Sunday Morning Coming Down," spoke about Cash during the service, breaking down in tears at one point.

Emmylou Harris and Sheryl Crow also were scheduled to sing.

The Rev. Franklin Graham - son of Cash's friend, the Rev. Billy Graham - was scheduled to speak. Eulogies were to be delivered by Cash's longtime manager, Lou Robin, and record producer "Cowboy" Jack Clement.

Cash, known as "The Man in Black" for his preferred attire, said in a hit song that he wore the color in honor of the poor and oppressed.

For more than four decades, beginning in the 1950s as a peer of Elvis Presley in Memphis, Cash specialized in earthy songs about hard times and brooding love songs. His hits range from the rockabilly anthem "Get Rhythm," to the comical "A Boy Named Sue," to the recent "Hurt," about the ravages of drug abuse.

Cash rose to fame in his late 20s, but his career was nearly derailed by an addiction to pills. He credited his wife, Carter Cash, whom he married in 1968, for helping him beat the addiction.

His commercial peak was from 1969-71 when he had a network television show with guests including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Kristofferson.

After a dip in record sales that lasted nearly two decades, Cash partnered with rap/hard rock producer Rick Rubin and recorded four critically lauded albums that found him a new, younger audience.

After the death of Carter Cash in May, Cash spent most of his time recording, leaving more than 30 songs yet to be released. He had planned to attend the MTV Video Music Awards shortly before his death, but couldn't because of illness. His video for "Hurt" won an award for cinematography at that show, and he has four nominations at the Country Music Association Awards in November.

The funeral program listed the active pallbearers as country singers Marty Stuart and Larry Gatlin, and producer Randy Scruggs. Honorary pallbearers included Kristofferson; Rubin; singers Rodney Crowell and Willie Nelson; Marshall Grant, who played bass in Cash's original band; and his brother Tommy Cash.


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