Country music legend Johnny Cash was known to most of the world as the “Man in Black,” who wrote songs of living hard, surviving rough times, and finding salvation amid the darkness for over four decades. However, to his sister Joanne Cash, the legendary figure was just your average, run-of-the-mill “country boy.”
Joanne, a songwriter herself, recently came forward in a brand new documentary about her brother called “Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon.” The documentary focuses on Cash’s devotion to his faith and how his love for God played a significant part in his life while doing battle against drug addiction and depression. The film contains several discussions with Cash as he reflects on his own personal journey. Cash passed away at the age of 71 back in 2003, less than four months after the death of his beloved wife, June Carter Cash.
“He gave his heart to the Lord when he was 12, at our little country church,” Joanne stated during an interview with Fox News Digital.“… But when he grew up he got away from God and got in the drug years. He [then] recommitted his life to Christ… I guess he thought, ‘If God could change me, he could change anybody.’”
“The Lord is very real in my life and was very real in Johnny’s life,” she continued. “Our mother was a very strong Christian and prayed for us constantly. Johnny’s unshakable faith in God was taught to him by our brother Jack. [He] was going to be a pastor, and of course, God took him to heaven before that could happen. He was only 14. But it taught Johnny to have an unshakable faith in the Lord.”
“There was something special about Johnny from the very beginning,” Joanne shared the interview. “We would listen to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night when it came on. That was something that not only he listened to, but all of us looked forward to. He said, ‘Isn’t it great? Listen to that music. One day, you’re going to hear me on the radio.’ I kind of laughed because I was a kid. And I said, ‘Really?’ He said, ‘Yes, you’re going to hear me sing one day on the radio.’ I didn’t believe it at the time, but I certainly believe it now.”
Joanne also details the close relationship that Johnny and his brother Jack shared as children, saying the two were “inseparable.” Jack later died in a tragic accident, something that had a deep impact on Johnny that was felt for the rest of his life.
“Johnny never got over that,” she admitted. “All of us never got over it.”
Joanne said that as Johnny got older, he was “our protector” who watched out for his siblings. And while he often appeared to be dour, assuming he was dark and drab was a misconception.
“I remember Johnny saying, ‘Johnny is a pretty nice guy, but Cash gets him in trouble,” Joanne laughed. “Somebody asked him, ‘Why do you wear all black?’ He actually didn’t at all. He wore blue jeans… he loved denim. And Johnny said about his dark closet, ‘You know what? It’s just really dark in there. I’m comfortable in black. It’s dressy. [And] I decided that I would stand up for the kids… that are struggling in the black, darkness of this world.’ That’s why he wore black.”
“He wrote the song ‘Man in Black,’ which describes that completely,” Joanne added. “He’d wear it for the young and the old and the people [who] had never read the words that Jesus said. And he said, ‘I wear it for the prisoner who is long paid for his crime because he’s a victim of the times.’ If you listen to… the wording of that song, you will find out the reason he [wore] black.”
Joanne then revealed that Cash surrendered his life to Jesus in 1972, in the same church where she had converted to Christianity. She then discussed how she recommitted herself to faith in 1970 after facing down some demons of her own. Since that time, she has now become “free of drugs and alcohol.”
“I can happily say I haven’t had a drink since 1970,” she remarked. “Not any of those drugs.”
“Early in his career, Cash took massive quantities of pills to deal with the rigors of touring and other personal demons, Reuters reported. While he cleaned up with June’s guidance, the star relapsed towards the end of the ‘70s. His son, John Carter Cash, described how the patriarch faced near-death experiences, rehab stints and interventions in his 2007 book ‘Anchored in Love: The Life and Legacy of June Carter Cash,'” Fox reported.
“He, like all of us, was not perfect,” Joanne went on to say of her beloved brother. “We are not perfect. That’s why we need a Savior. Johnny knew he wasn’t perfect… He fell. He went into the dark side. And in the drug years, he almost lost his life… But God showed him some sort of a light. And I believe that was the Lord. It was the Holy Spirit leading him out of that darkness. And it changed his life… That’s why… he gave his heart back to the Lord and emerged from that darkness… I want people to know that as long as there is life and breath, there is hope.”
Joanne said that she wants people to remember her brother not only for his musical talent but also because of his love for Jesus Christ.
“Your dreams can come true and then you [also can fall] away and get… to death’s door,” Joanne concluded. “[But] through the Lord Jesus Christ, there is hope… Even if you’re at your very lowest point. And Johnny proved that.”