February 26 ~  Between Heaven and Hell Dressed in Black: Tribute to Johnny

"How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man." ~ Johnny Cash

Country music legend John R. Cash (1932-2003) was born on this day to poor sharecroppers in Kingsland, Arkansas. At age 12, he lost his younger brother Jack in a freak chain saw accident and said the tragedy, "put a mournful tone in my life -- not just in my voice but in my whole life."

One-fourth Cherokee Indian, the 6'2" Cash was known for his distinctive, resonant voice and prolific songwriting about love, hardships, and life's luckless souls.

"After about three lessons (my) voice teacher said, 'Don't take voice lessons. Do it your way. You're a song stylist. Always do it your way,'" he explained.

Johnny signed with Sun Records in 1955. His first public performance was opening for Elvis Presley. Cash gained immediate fame with hits such as Folsom Prison Blues and I Walk the Line.

With a career of over 35 years and a voice that U2's Bono described as "the most male in Christendom," Cash's cultural and musical importance transcended country music's boundaries.

His signature song The Man in Black remained a moral reminder and promise. About the symbolism of wearing the color, Cash vowed: "Until we start to move, to make a few things right, you'll never see me wear a suit of white."

A deeply spiritual man who replaced addiction with religion, Cash once explained his beliefs, "Creative people have to be fed from the divine source. I have to get fed. I had to get filled up in order to pour out."

His 2002 cover of the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt was a remarkable tribute to his honest heart. His love story with wife June Carter Cash was life-sustaining.

Although the frail Cash was hospitalized repeatedly and suffered from an incurable degenerative disease of the nervous system called Shy-Drager syndrome, he was a survivor. He continued to record and perform up to the time of his death.

Cash said, "I love every minute I'm onstage. I might be in pain; I might be tired; but I love every minute of it."

Johnny CASH Tributes

Follow your heart to heaven.