There have been many gifted musicians throughout the history of pop, but Johnny Cash could positively give new life to old songs, using little more than a guitar and that famous baritone voice.

His latter years, characterised by the American Recordings albums, add up to one of the most evocative periods of his career, in which every word reflected a life that had seen ups and downs in more measures than most.

No song better exemplifies that than his cover of Nine Inch Nails' 'Hurt'.

Outside of industrial rock circles, it wasn't that well-known a track before Cash covered it - although the NIN album from which it sprang, 1994's The Downward Spiral, sold 119,000 copies in its first week alone.

The Man in Black brought it to a huge new audience in 2003, however, and even more than the song's writer Trent Reznor, he seemed to embody the song in his old age.

Cash's version is stained by years of hard living and the video for it, shot by director Mark Romanek, only adds to the atmosphere.

Johnny Cash

Credit: PA

We see the ageing singer in the near-derelict 'House of Cash', where he had lived from 1968 onwards, with the lyrics evoking images of his life and losses.

Later, Romanek lifted the lid on how they shot the video, exposing the troubles that wrought the production as he spoke to Dave Urbanski, author of The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash.

"I begged Rick Rubin (the American Recordings producer) to let me shoot something to that track," said Romanek, who added that he would've shot the video for nothing if it ensured that it got made.

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash

The Man in Black with wife June Carter Cash. Credit: PA

"It (the House of Cash) had been closed for a long time," Romanek said. "The place was in such a state of dereliction. That's when I got the idea that maybe we could be extremely candid about the state of Johnny's health - as candid as Johnny has always been in his songs."

Cash struggles with drugs, depression and alcoholism were well documented, while his wife, fellow singer June Carter Cash, would die just three months after production wrapped.

In the video, images of the singer's life are interspersed with biblical figures - Cash, like many country singers, was very religious - and archive footage of his career. Dressed in his trademark black, the singer is surrounded by a meal set for many people, but he sits mournfully as the sole diner.

Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin. Credit: PA

"I cried the first time I saw it," producer Rick Rubin said. "If you were moved to that kind of emotion in the course of a two-hour movie, it would be a great accomplishment. To do it in a four-minute music video is shocking."

The song is simple and the video simpler still, but sometimes it is the most straightforward things that make the greatest impact.

Source: Independent

Featured Image Credit: American Recordings/Universal

Michael Minay

Mike Minay is a trending journalist at LADbible. He’s co-ordinated interviews with some of the big names from the world of news and sport including ITV’s Robert Peston, Sky Sports’ Jeff Stelling and darts champion Michael van Gerwen. His reporting days began on University radio in Birmingham, before moving to BBC Sport Online – creating content for large events such as Wimbledon and the FA Cup final. Mike still commentates on Football League matches at the weekend. A Manchester LAD at heart.

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