More than thirty years had passed since Johnny Cash last received a Country Music Association Award. But the Man in Black, who died in September, received three honors last night in Nashville, tying Alan Jackson for the most awards.
Cash's American IV: The Man Comes Around won Album of the Year (the first time he'd received the award since 1968, And his poignant single and video for "Hurt" won Single of the Year and Video of the Year.
"My father's work came to completion at the end of his life, not at the end of this record," said Cash's son John Carter Cash, who accepted his father's awards. "I've never seen a man more dedicated and stronger than that man. My father's memory will live on in my heart, and I know in all of your hearts."
Cash was also honored at the show's conclusion when his Highwaymen pals Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson led a musical tribute, performing two of his classic hits, "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk the Line." Travis Tritt and Sheryl Crow offered their rendition of "Jackson," and Hank Williams Jr. sang "Ring of Fire." The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was joined by the evening's other performers for a final farewell on the Carter Family classic "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."
Cash's three wins brings his CMA total to nine, though they were the first since he won five in 1969. Alan Jackson, who took Entertainer of the Year honors, brought his lifetime total to a dozen. Between their six wins, there weren't a lot of other awards left, and despite pre-CMA hoopla about the Dixie Chicks (who received two nominations) and Toby Keith (seven), both went home empty-handed.
Lest Cash's wins seem like a windfall from his passing, the nominations were announced before his death on September 12th. And the music legend could yet add to his CMA tally. During Cash's decade-long collaboration with producer Rick Rubin, he recorded dozens of songs that weren't included on his four American records. A five-CD box set of material from those sessions will be released as Unearthed on November 25th; one disc, My Mother's Hymn Book is a previously unreleased gospel album. And Cash and Rubin recorded more than fifty songs for a fifth American record.