By Brett Weiss
The U.S. Postal Service has announced that Johnny “The Man in Black” Cash is getting his own postage stamp. Designed to look like a 45 rpm record, the stamp will be issued later this year as part of the new “Music Icon” series (other performers in the series have yet to be named).
For music aficionado Pam Burnett, who grew up listening to such hits as A Boy Named Sue and Ring of Fire, The Man in Black is highly deserving of the honor, which will coincide (more or less) with the 10th anniversary of his death – Cash died Sept. 12, 2003 of complications from diabetes.
“Johnny Cash’s music serves as a piece of Americana,” Burnett said. “Young and old can identify with his songs because of his diversity. From his rebellious earlier years to his walk in faith later on, you can follow his journey of life in his lyrics, just as you can through the sound of his voice – strong, deep, and powerful at the beginning to frail, soft, and full of wisdom at the end.”
Born Feb. 26, 1932 in Kingsland, Ark., Johnny Cash, like Elvis Presley, got his start at Sun Records in Memphis, Tenn., recording for Sam Philips. His first recordings at Sun were Hey Porter and Cry! Cry! Cry!, which were released in June of 1955, followed by such legendary singles as Folsom Prison Blues and I Walk the Line.
In 1958, Cash left Sun for Columbia Records. During the early 1960s, he toured with the Carter family, where he met his second wife, June. From 1969 through 1971, he hosted ABC’s The Johnny Cash Show, which showcased the talents of such performers as Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Merle Haggard.
Other highlights abound, including a resurgence in the 1990s that saw his American Recordings (1994) album win a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. In 2002, Cash recorded the critically acclaimed cover of ’Hurt.’
Moreover, Cash was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1977), the Country Music Hall of Fame (1980), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1992), and he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1999).
“Johnny Cash’s voice has spanned three generations of fans,” Burnett said. “He wasn’t afraid to embrace his feelings and portray them through his songs. He took a stance on many issues, such as prison reform with Folsom Prison Blues. Cash gave the prison population a voice. This can be seen and heard in his performance at San Quentin Prison.”
Cash’s rebellious nature and storied alcohol and drug use was popularized in the feature film Walk the Line (2005), which starred Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash. The film also covered Cash’s penchant for wearing black, which he did to show support for the “prisoner who has long paid for his crime,” the “poor and the beaten down,” and the “sick and lonely old.”
“Black represented his emotions, rebellion and darkness,” Burnett said.
Cash’s legend and crossover appeal have made him a favorite among music collectors. His original guitars, gold records, articles of clothing, and other rare items frequently sell for thousands of dollars through such entities as eBay and Heritage Auctions.
Time will tell if his stamp becomes a high-priced collectible.