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Weak, In Pain, Physically Spent… He Played And Sang Legendary Songs One Last Time

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” is how the iconic Johnny Cash would begin his performances, often launching into his classic “Folsom Prison Blues” from 1955. His final public appearance followed this tradition. Before we dive into footage of that last show, it’s important to understand the backdrop. Leading up to his last performance on July 5, 2003, Johnny Cash was battling severe health issues. By that time, he was notably weakened, navigating life in a wheelchair, dealing with facial paralysis, and deeply grieving.

In 1997, Cash was diagnosed with Shy–Drager syndrome, a rare disorder later reclassified as autonomic neuropathy related to diabetes. Despite deteriorating health and compromised lungs from pneumonia, Cash continued to work with producer Rick Rubin, producing acclaimed albums under Rubin’s American Recordings label. Additionally, the loss of his beloved wife, June Carter Cash, on May 15, 2003, at the age of 73, cast a shadow over his final concert, which occurred just two months after her passing.

Johnny Cash’s last show took place at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, near Clinch Mountain. This venue held special significance for Cash as a homage to his late wife. June, the daughter of Maybelle Carter of The Carter Family, was part of a musical legacy that began when she was ten.

After the original Carter Family ceased recording in 1943, Maybelle and her daughters continued as The Carter Sisters & Mother Maybelle, joining The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1950. It was here that June Carter and Johnny Cash first met, both already married to others. The Carter Family Fold, part museum and part concert hall, stands on the Carter family’s original estate.

Let’s reminisce about Johnny and June at their peak:

“Jackson,” penned by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber in 1963, was brought to life by Johnny Cash and June Carter in February 1967, culminating in their marriage on March 1, 1968. The song reached No. 2 on the US Country charts and won them a Grammy in 1968 for Best Country & Western Performance Duet, Trio, or Group.

Johnny Cash’s final act at the Carter Family Fold, despite battling laryngitis, stands as a testament to his indomitable spirit, vast musical contributions, and enduring love for June Carter Cash. His performance, though marred by illness, showcases his unwavering commitment and legacy.

A notable moment in the opening scenes features John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny and June, assisting his father. John Carter Cash is a musician and producer in his own right. Johnny Cash passed away on September 12, 2003, just four months after June. Let’s pay tribute with one more song from the man in black:

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