Ain't No Grave At All: The Lighter Side Of Johnny Cash

On what would have been his 78th birthday, Johnny Cash is seeing yet another resurgence in popularity. Since his death in 2003 and the biopic that was released two years later,

Walk The Line

, the man's shadow has grown to heights that no one ever would have imagined. In death Cash is growing ever stronger by the day, and rightfully so. Rocks Off got word today that the ten billionth song to be purchased on iTunes was one of Cash's compositions. The buyer, Georgia grandfather Louie Sulcer, received a phone call from Apple honcho Steve Jobs, another from Cash's daughter Roseanne, and a $10,000 gift card for the online music store. No word on what the exact song was, but we hope it was our favorite Cash track, "Man In Black," the lyrics of which are emblazoned in tattoo ink across our chest. This week producer Rick Rubin's influential American label released what he has said is the last of the sessions he recorded with Cash close to his death. The new

American VI: Ain't No Grave

is a stirring and fitting coda to the work that Rubin and Cash were doing at the time of the singer's death. Starting with 1994's inaugural

American Recordings

album, the pair ran through five albums of Cash doing both traditional songs and covers of songs by such disparate artists as Glenn Danzig, Soundgarden, Beck, Neil Diamond and most famously a version of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt."

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The new Grave features backing work from the Avett Brothers, Smoky Hormel (Beck), and Matt Sweeney formerly of the indie band Chavez. This last round of tracks includes a song each from Sheryl Crow and Kris Kristofferson. It ends with the sweet Hawaiian lilt of "Aloha Oe," written by the last official monarch of the islands, Queen Lili'uokalani.

As dour and foreboding as Cash's image was at times, he was one hell of a funny guy. In interviews he was always quick to turn a phrase and he was known to be a hellraiser on tours back in his Sun Records heyday. When you partied with people like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, you had to up your game just a tad. Up until his death, Cash was a humorous and warm fellow. On some of the tracks he did with Rubin, you can hear him cracking jokes to his backing band before and after songs.

We collected a few YouTube artifacts from the Man's long and legendary career. If you aren't wearing an article of black clothing today, fix that situation now. Happy birthday, Mr. Cash.

On Sesame Street...

  Impersonating Elvis...

Spirit guide on The Simpsons...
Singing on the Muppets...
With a moustache...
More Sesame Street...
 On Letterman...
Interview in 1988...
Canadian Television in 1975...
A Boy Named Sue...

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