In Context: Johnny Cash’s Influence Today
AUTHOR: Chloe Loos, Artistic Intern
Not many artists can say that they’ve had a music career spanning over fifty years, released 96 records across multiple different labels, and sold over 90 million copies, but Johnny Cash can. That – and his inclusion in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, GMA’s Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame – paints the picture of a talented and varied musician who could not help but leave a lasting impression on musicians young and old.
While one would expect most of his influence to have been on country or bluegrass bands, Johnny Cash has had an effect on those outside of what is “accepted” country, as shown by his own range throughout his music career. He often provided space for new and unique musicians, like Bob Dylan, and is credited with launching the careers of several, such as Kris Kristofferson. Following his death, many artists paid tribute to Cash in whichever ways they felt expressed their grief at losing such an important icon and innovator. For example, the website for Nine Inch Nails was black to show their mourning; Cash’s last cover was of their song, “Hurt,” thus showing his reach as both a creator and performer.
Cash has been recognized by musicians both during and after his lifetime. In 1999, Turner Network Television (TNT) produced and released an “All-Star Tribute to Johnny Cash,” a tribute concert of his songs performed by various big names in music. Sheryl Crow, U2, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Lyle Lovett were among the performers. While country-based tribute albums to Johnny Cash are quite common, All Aboard: A Tribute to Johnny Cash – featuring covers by The Dresden Dolls, The Gaslight Anthem, and Russ Rankin – and Johnny Cash Remixed – featuring covers by rappers and DJs – display just how all-encompassing and widespread his influence is for artists outside for the country and rock scenes. Even now, just doing a Google search for “Johnny Cash tribute” provides links to multiple bands and artists using their own musical talent to pay their respects to the juggernaut that was Cash.
It is obvious that there is something about Johnny Cash’s life and music that has struck a special chord with performers from all walks of life and style. Furthermore, the film I Walk the Line and now our production of Ring of Fire ensure that his influential career will be kept at the forefront of developments in media.
To read more about Johnny Cash’s influence on other musicians, click here.