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Most critics admire Johnny Cash for being a one-of-a-kind singer who has blazed trails artistically in both life and in death. His decades-spanning, multi-generation-influencing career has lasted longer than other greats like The Beatles and Elvis, to name a few. Now on the eve of what would have been his 78th birthday, Cash set another record yesterday, when he became iTunes ten billionth download, even though the song download was not off his just-released last posthumous recording, “American VI: Ain’t No Grave.” It’s yet one more bit of evidence of the far reaching impact of Cash’s music into the souls of young and old and how his work will leave an indeliable mark for years to come ,
Recorded in the final few months of his life, “AIn’t No Grave” will not disappoint anyone looking for some new Cash tunes and certainly left me misty-eyed after just one listen. It is a brave, resolute portrait of a man resting at peace with death and filled with certainty of his final destination.


Considering the numerous health problems Cash had at the end of his life, his voice doesn’t sound as frail on “American VI” as it did on some of his previous “American” recordings and producer RIck RUbin’s sparse, acoutic arrangments only enhance the Man in Black’s vocals. In addition to the catchy but haunting title track, Cash cleverly reinvented some cover songs on this recording, giving new spiritual depth and beauty to old songs like Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good TImes” and “Can'[t Help But Wonder Where I am Bound.”
But if there is any one song that can be consider Cash’s final word on life and death, it will undoubtedly be the song ” I Corinthians 15:55.” It’s a completely unsentimental yet profound anthem that punctuates everything Cash believed:In spite of loss and pain, we must cling to the everlasting hope and power of Jesus.
And while it is easy to go on and on about the greatness of Cash as a musician and songwriter, what I take away from “Ain’t No Grave” goes far beyond art. In this compilation of songs , Cash reminds his audience in a new way that the afterlife is not the worst thing we have to fear and it is not a tragedy to no longer fight the inevitability of arriving at death’s door. Of course, that point-of view is fueled by the quality I admire most about Johnny Cash. If I could have half of his unwavering confidence in the God and the heaven he sings about, I, too, would have the peaceful heart he so clearly had at the end of his days on this earth. But just listening to these songs makes me waver just a little bit less.
Related Feature: Johnny Cash Quotes

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