I awoke this morning to find that Johnny Cash died in the middle of the night.
I’ve been worrying about him recently. I feel about him the way I feel about George Jones–how long can a guy keep going, somebody who’s been so hard on himself for so long?
In Nashville, we call country singers by first name. When Tammy died in 1998, I watched the funeral on TV. The day I heard about Waylon’s death last year, it made me think of my sister’s childhood friendship with his daughter Jenny. When Johnny’s fabulous wife June died this spring, I felt the same seismic lurch that everyone felt: how could Johnny survive without her?
I’ve been singing “Ring of Fire” all day. June wrote it, not Johnny. Last week I saw a documentary in which she talked about the day she met Johnny Cash. She felt like she’d fallen into a ring of fire.
Years ago, when I had just moved back home to Nashville, I drove up to Hendersonville, where Johnny lived right there on Old Hickory Lake. Big old country music star compound, big wall all the way around. With a big parking lot in front for the tourists’ buses. Johnny understood about his fans.