Producer Don Was doesn't hold back in describing Johnny Cash. "He was a human of mythological proportions." Cash had a mythological nickname, "The Man in Black." It came from his song of the same name, in which he sang "I wear the black for the poor and beaten down." It's a dirge that epitomized his everyman persona — tough, tragic, inspiring, painfully human. But the name also calls to mind the supernatural — something ghostly, powerful and much more than human.
The two sides of Cash will no doubt be on display Friday, when a host of music icons, including Cash's fellow Highwaymen Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson (the other Highwayman, Waylon Jennings, died in 2002), Lucinda Williams, John Hiatt, Ronnie Dunn, Iron and Wine, Sheryl Crow and Carolina Chocolate Drops will come together for "We Walk the Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash" at ACL Live. Anchoring the night will be a backing band led by Was (also serving as the music director) with new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Ian McLagan, Buddy Miller, Kenny Aronoff and Greg Leisz.
Although a set list for the show hasn't been announced, it's a safe bet that it will include a good chunk of Cash's most popular songs, many of which have been reinterpreted in countless ways over the years. The show is part of a larger celebration of Johnny Cash's life, including the construction of a museum at his boyhood home in Dyess, Ark. It will be recorded for future DVD and CD release by Sony's Legacy Recordings, which is also releasing a series of "bootleg" Johnny Cash recordings. A percentage of the proceeds from Friday's show will go to Charley's Fund, which works to find a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
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