Johnny Cash’s Sister Says ‘Man In Black’ Gave ‘His Heart’ To God Before He Died: ‘There Is Hope’
To the world, Johnny Cash was “the man in black”, whose songs about the hard life and the search for salvation crossed genres for more than four decades. But for his sister Joanne Cash, the seemingly mythical figure in music was simply “a country boy”.
The singer has featured in a new documentary about the beloved singer-songwriter called “Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon.” It explores his deep devotion to faith and how his love of God played a role in his life as he faced depression and crippling drug addiction. It features never-before-seen conversations with Cash himself as he reflected on his personal journey. Cash died in 2003 at the age of 71, less than four months after his wife, June Carter Cash.
“He gave his heart to the Lord when he was 12, in our little country church,” Joanne told Fox News Digital. “…But when he grew up, he got away from God and went into the drug years. [then] renewed his life to Christ… I guess he thought, ‘If God could change me, he could change anyone.'”
“The Lord is very real in my life and was very real in Johnny’s life,” she shared. “Our mother was a very strong Christian and constantly prayed for us. Johnny’s unwavering 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 happened. He was only 14 years old. But it taught Johnny to have unwavering faith in the Lord.”
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According to Joanne, there were seven siblings among them and Johnny was “right in the middle”. As a child, he had big dreams of performing at the Grand Ole Opry, the stage where country legends are born.
“There was something special about Johnny from the very beginning,” she shared. “We used to listen to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights when he was performing. It was something he not only listened to, but we all looked forward to. He said, ‘Isn’t that great? Listen to this music. One day you’re gonna hear me on the radio. I sort of laughed because I was a kid. And I said, ‘Really?’ He said, ‘Yes, you’re going to hear me sing on the radio someday.’ I didn’t believe it then, but I certainly believe it now.”
Joanne described how Cash and Jack, her two older brothers, were “inseparable”. All of the siblings were close as they resided in Arkansas. Growing up, Cash began writing songs and poems while admiring the music of artists such as Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, and Ernest Tubb, among others. Tragedy struck the family when Jack died from injuries sustained in an accident.
“Johnny never got over it,” Joanne admitted. “We never got over it.”
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As she got older, Joanne said Cash “was our protector” watching over her siblings. While he came across as a dominating presence with an unmistakable baritone voice, Joanne said there was still a misconception about his dark appearance.
“I remember Johnny saying, ‘Johnny’s a pretty nice guy, but Cash is giving him trouble,'” she laughed. “Someone asked him, ‘Why are you wearing black?’ Actually not at all. He wore blue jeans… he loved denim. And Johnny said of his dark closet, “You know what? It’s just really dark in there. I’m comfortable in black. It’s dressy. [And] I have decided to defend the children… who struggle in the black darkness of this world. That’s why he wore black.”
“He wrote the song ‘Man in Black,’ which completely describes that,” Joanne continued. “He would wear it for the young and the old and the people [who] had never read the words of Jesus. And he said, ‘I wear it for the prisoner who is long paid for his crime because he is a victim of the time.’ If you listen to… the wording of this song, you will find out the reason why it [wore] black.”
Joanne said Cash became a born-again Christian in 1972 at the same church “where I had given my heart to the Lord.” Joanne said she recommitted to her faith in 1970 after facing her own difficulties. Since then, she has become “drug and alcohol free”.
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“I can happily say that I haven’t had a drink since 1970,” she said. “None of those drugs.”
Early in his career, Cash took massive amounts of pills to deal with the rigors of touring and other personal demons, Reuters reported. While cleaning up with June’s guidance, the star relapsed in the late ’70s. His son, John Carter Cash, described how the patriarch coped with near-death experiences, rehab stints and interventions in his 2007 book “Anchored in Love: The Life and Legacy of June Carter Cash”.
“He, like all of us, wasn’t perfect,” Joanne said of her beloved brother. “We are not perfect. That’s why we need a Saviour. Johnny knew he wasn’t perfect… He fell. a light. And I believe it was the Lord. It was the Holy Spirit that brought him out of that darkness. And it changed his life… That’s why… he gave his heart back to the Lord and came out of that darkness… I want people to know that as long as there is life and breath, there is hope.”
In the 1970s Minister Billy Graham learned of Cash’s renewed faith and invited him to be part of his crusade events. The two developed a close friendship that lasted until Cash’s death.
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Today, Joanne wants people to remember her brother not only for his undeniable musical talent, but also for his determination to find salvation in Christ. She said this new film chronicling her journey is “the best documentary I’ve ever seen”.
“Your dreams can come true and then you [also can fall] away and go…to death’s door,” Joanne said. “[But] through the Lord Jesus Christ, there is hope… Even if you are at your lowest. And Johnny proved it.”
“Johnny Cash: Redemption of an American Icon” is in theaters exclusively from December 5-7.