News Articles

Johnny Cash tribute fills Ryman; pastor reflects on legend’s life

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Johnny Cash’s mother played an instrumental role in his life, especially in his struggle with fame and drug addiction, his longtime pastor and friend Courtney Wilson said.

“He had a wonderful mother and father. His mother was a woman of deep Christian faith and commitment and loved the Lord. She was more of an influence on Johnny as he grew older and got used to the fame,” Wilson, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., told Baptist Press.

“He realized the heart of happiness was in serving God and doing His bidding in real life, and that’s what he tried honestly to do. He struggled with addiction to the pills, but Johnny was a person who never quit struggling. He continued his fight, and to me, he won a victory over it.”

Cash died of complications from diabetes in September, and a cast of friends and fellow musicians paid a tribute to him for more than four hours Nov. 10 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Wilson told Baptist Press his last visit with Cash was at Baptist Hospital in Nashville just before he died. He said Cash understood how sick he was, and the two prayed together and bid each other goodbye.

“I think sometimes we don’t understand that when you’re like Johnny was, he couldn’t take any pain medicine because there was always the fear of dropping back into the clutches of the drugs,” Wilson said.

Wilson identified two lessons people can learn from Cash’s life.

“One thing I hope they’ll learn is that drugs are no substitute. It doesn’t really lead you to the good life,” he said. “But God is a helper of those who turn to Him, even those who make mistakes in life.

“And I think we might learn that Johnny loved his family and he was good to his family — his sisters, mother, father, all of his children — and that speaks well for a man, especially a man who’s quite famous. Sometimes there’s a tendency to forget those you love and those that have been with you along the way, but he didn’t do that.”

Wilson told Baptist Press he had been interviewed by Time magazine, The New York Times and other publications and was impressed that they wanted to know about Cash.

“His music affected a great many more people than most of us realized, and I’m thankful for that,” he said.

Among the memories Wilson recounted for the media was the one of a milestone in Cash’s spiritual life. Cash had been in a spiral from drug abuse and had started a relationship with June Carter, whom he would soon marry. She urged him to attend a service at First Baptist Hendersonville with her, but he was reluctant.

“He said he didn’t think he was ready for that,” Wilson told Time magazine. “But she told him they could go late and leave early. They came late and sat in the back.”

That day, the message Cash heard from Wilson about Jesus being the Living Water would help turn his life around in a direction more attuned to God.

Among the many testaments to how Cash’s career continues to influence the music industry even after his death, the late legend won three Country Music Association awards Nov. 5 — music video of the year, single of the year and album of the year.

“I’m totally overwhelmed with honor and respect to know that my father’s legacy lives on,” John Carter Cash, son of Johnny and June, said in accepting the best single award at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville.

The Nov. 10 tribute in Nashville featured the Fisk Jubilee Singers who opened the evening and such headliners from country music as Willie Nelson, George Jones, Hank Williams Jr., Travis Tritt, Brooks & Dunn and, from pop music, Sheryl Crow and John Mellencamp. A broadcast of the event is scheduled for CMT Nov. 15.

W Publishing Group, a division of Thomas Nelson, has announced the signing of an exclusive authorized biography of Cash to be titled, “The Man Called CASH: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend,” and released next September. The book will be penned by veteran music biographer Steve Turner.

W Publishing initially began discussions with Cash about the project in September, publisher David Moberg said.

Already on the market: “The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash,” written by Dave Urbanski and released by Relevant Books, a division of Relevant Media Group. To read an excerpt from the book, go to www.relevantstore.com.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: JOHNNY’S JOURNEY.

    About the Author

  • Erin Curry