Johnny Cash was remembered and mourned at a funeral on Monday in Hendersonville, Tennessee, just outside Nashville.
The ceremony for family and close friends was held at noon, according to a spokesperson for the music legend, who died Friday morning from diabetes-related complications (see “Johnny Cash Dead At 71″ ).
A public memorial has yet to be announced.
“He was truly a great man and he will live on in all of our hearts forever more,” read a statement issued by Rick Rubin, producer of Cash’s acclaimed American series, the latest of which is American IV: The Man Comes Around. “Our challenge is to listen to music with the same passion and emotion he put into making it.”
Scheduled to perform at the service at the First Baptist Church were Sheryl Crow, country singer Emmylou Harris and Kris Kristofferson, who composed the outlaw-country supergroup the Highwaymen in 1985 with Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
Kristofferson said Cash was “larger than life” and a “true American hero” in a statement. “[Johnny Cash was] beloved the world over as much for his kindness and compassion and championing of the underdog as for the power of his art,” the statement read. “He’s been my inspiration, my faithful friend, my champion — a constant oasis of unconditional love and support. His fiercely independent and free spirit, balanced with his love of family, children and his fellow man, will stand as a shining example of the best of what it means to be human. And he was damned funny, even in the darkest times.”
Kristofferson, who authored Cash’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” closed his statement with a poem, in which he said the Man in Black was “always shining brighter than a star.”
Cash’s longtime manager Lou Robin and country music producer Jack Clement were scheduled to speak at the service, at which Hank Williams Jr., Kid Rock, the Oak Ridge Boys, Rodney Crowell, Marty Stuart, Randy Scruggs, Larry Gatlin and Dr. Billy Graham were expected to attend. Many of the same cast also attended services for Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash, who died in May (see “Country Star June Carter Cash, Wife of Johnny Cash, dies At 73″ ).
Although official public memorials have yet to be set, Cash fans have instituted their own means to memorialize a man whose tremendous career was based on testimonials to individual human spirit.
The flag flew at half staff and visitors signed a register of remembrance at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which inducted Cash in 1980. His plaque was draped in black crepe.
At Nashville’s Ernest Tubb Records, which staged many in-store performances, a candle burned in front of the store on Friday and will remain until Cash is buried. The marquee simply read, “Johnny Cash, 1932-2003.”
“The family of Johnny Cash, in this sad hour, is greatly comforted by the outpouring of love and respect for his remarkable life,” read a statement from the Cashes. “We also take solace in the knowledge that he is again reunited with his dearest companion, June. Our lives, and indeed the entire planet, will forever feel the emptiness of his loss, but his music and the greatness of his spirit will endure.”
The family asks that donations in Cash’s name be send to SOS Children Villages, a charity Johnny and June began working with in the 1970s. The address is: SOS Children Villages USA, 1317 F Street NW #550, Washington, DC 20004.
To learn more about the infamous Man in Black, check out Kurt Loder’s “Johnny Cash: Original Gangsta.”