In the world, Johnny Cash is the “Man in Black,” whose songs of hard living and finding life have been ahead of the curve for four decades. But to his sister Joanne Cash, the singer’s style is “town boy.”
The singer came up with a new documentary about the beloved singer/songwriter called “Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon.” He explores his deep commitment to faith and how his love for God worked in his life as he faced depression and drug addiction. It features unheard conversations with Cash himself as he reflects on his personal journey. Cash passed away in 2003 at the age of 71, less than four months after his wife June Carter Cash.
“She gave her heart to the Lord at age 12, at our little country church,” Joanne told Fox News Digital. “… But when he grew up, he turned away from God and entered into the wood years [then] gave his life back to Christ… I think he thought, ‘If God can change me, He can change anyone.'”
“The Lord has been very true in my life and very true in Johnny’s life,” he said. “Our mother is a very strong Christian and always prays for us. Johnny’s faith in God was taught to him by our brother Jack. [He] becoming a pastor, and indeed, God took him to heaven before he arrived. He was only 14 years old. But he taught Johnny to have an unwavering faith in the Lord.”
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According to Joanne, there are seven brothers between them and Johnny is “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 beginning,” he said. “We’d listen to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night when it came on. It was something that not only he listened to, but we all watched. One day, you’ll be listening to me on the radio.’ I kind of laughed because I was a kid. And I said, ‘Really?’ He said, ‘Well, you’re going to hear me sing one day on the radio.’ I didn’t believe it then, but I believe it now.”
Joanne described how Cash and Jack, her two older brothers, were “inseparable.” All of the brothers were related during their time in Arkansas. Growing up, Cash began writing songs and lyrics 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 he sustained in an accident.
“Johnny didn’t agree to that,” Joanne said. “We’re not all gone.”
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Growing up, Joanne said Cash was “our protector” who looked after her siblings. Despite being known as a champion with an unmistakable baritone voice, Joanne says there are still misconceptions about her black appearance.
“I remember Johnny saying, ‘Johnny’s a good guy, but Cash is messing with him,'” he laughs. “Someone asked him, ‘Why do you wear all black?’ He never was. He wore blue jeans… he really liked denim. And Johnny said about his dark room, ‘You know? [And] I decided to stand up for the children… who are fighting against the darkness, the darkness of this world.’ That’s why he wears black.”
“He wrote the song ‘Man in Black,’ which describes that perfectly,” Joanne continued. “He will dress for the young and the old and the people [who] did not read the words that Jesus said. And he said, ‘I am sorry for the prisoner who has been paid so long for his crime because it hurts at times.’ If you listen to… the lyrics of that song, you’ll see why [wore] black.”
Joanne said Cash became a born-again Christian in 1972 at the same church “where I gave my heart to the Lord.” Joanne said she recommitted to her faith in the 1970s after facing her own struggles. Since then, he has been “drug and alcohol free.”
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“I can happily say I haven’t had a drink since the 1970s,” he said. “None of those drugs.”
Early in his career, Cash took a number of medications to deal with travel stress and other personal demons, Reuters reported. Although he cleaned up with the leadership of June, the star returned in the late 70s. His son, John Carter Cash, explained how the patriarch faced the experiences close to death, rehab efforts and work in her 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’re not good. That’s why we need a Redeemer. Johnny knows he’s not good… He’s fallen. He’s gone to the dark side. There’s light. And I believe he’s the Lord. The Holy Spirit led him out of that darkness. And it changed his life… That’s why… he gave his heart to the Lord and came out of that darkness… you know when living and breathing, there is hope.”
In the 70s, minister Billy Graham learned of Cash’s new ideas and invited him to participate in his Crusade events. The two formed a close relationship 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 decision to find life in Christ. He said this new film showing his journey is “the best documentary I’ve ever seen.”
“Your dreams can come true and so will you [also can fall] go…to death’s door,” said Joanne.[But] through the Lord Jesus Christ, there is hope… Even if you are at your lowest point. And Johnny proved that. “
“Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon” is only playing in theaters Dec. 5-7.