Downward spiral

The music video for Johnny Cash‘s version of ‘Hurt‘, shot just less than a year before the legend’s death, is the epitome of tragic beauty.  Winning Single of the Year at the 2003 Country Music Awards, Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails hit single (1994, The Downward Spiral) is an extraordinary rendition of a melody and lyrics derived in troubled times early in the career of the renowned industrial rock band’s front-man Trent Reznor. Cash’s life as the man who helped define the musical landscape of an age far removed from that of Reznor’s generation adds an inexplicable dimension of truth that proves timeless and undeniable. And the video which came to be his last, abundant with its allusion to The Last Supper, does much justice in commemorating both Johnny Cash the star and public personality, and Johnny Cash the loving husband and father. When asked about his reaction to video in an interview with Alternative Press, Reznor replied:

I pop the video in, and wow… Tears welling, silence, goosebumps… Wow. I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore. …It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning–different, but every bit as pure.

Alternative Press #194, September 2004

‘Hurt’ The Legend of Johnny Cash (2005)

I hurt myself today
to see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
the only thing that’s real
the needle tears a hole
the old familiar sting
try to kill it all away
but I remember everything

What have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end
and you could have it all
my empire of dirt

I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
upon my liar’s chair
full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
beneath the stains of time
the feelings disappear
you are someone else
I am still right here


If I could start again
a million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

See also: ‘Hurt’ video, Nine Inch Nails

Johnny Cash: Official Site

Nine Inch Nails: Official Site

Sarah Badr © MMVII


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