Johnny Cash was one of those artists that comes along every now and again, and just crossed all the boundaries.
I don't think it was a concerted effort for him to diversify or appeal to different segments of society or different people. I think he was always just doing what he does, but he had that common man touch – which is a gift, it's not something that you learn. Aside from being an incredibly skilled musician and singer songwriter, he just seemed like a real guy, a working class guy.
To people in my neck of the woods – in the mountains of Tennessee – it was something to aspire to. Here was this guy that was just like them, and doing these incredible things, tapping into emotions that they weren't necessarily able to express.
"I think he was always just doing what he does, but he had that common man touch – which is a gift, it's not something that you learn."
Of course he did the whole San Quentin and Folsom thing of playing shows in prisons, to actual prisoners – that was just cool. That had never been done before, which adds a whole new different layer to it, giving him a whole new different audience. He crosses into other types of music, and later in his life did all those fantastic covers of Nine Inch Nails – all of the sort of things you'd never expect anyone like that to do. And he was just so prolific, when I was in Nashville a few weeks ago, I'd never been to the Johnny Cash museum, but paid it a visit, and there is a wall of all of the singles he released. It's just overwhelming how many there were. He became country music royalty, and of course he married into the Carter family who are the first family of country music. That added a whole new layer.
I think it was that he was a flawed human who was trying to be better. There was something about that that really appealed to people.