Tuesday, April 5, 2011


A lot has been written about Johnny Cash's cover of the song "Hurt", including the famous quote from songwriter Trent Reznor. That is how it should be, as it is truly an amazing performance no matter how you look at it. The changes in Cash's voice due to age and sickness may make it even MORE effective. But beyond the effectiveness of the song is the music video, which probably elevated "Hurt" to legendary status.

I have mixed feeling about the music video as a form. Some are good, while some are so off-base that they almost compromise the song. And then there are songs that are amplified by the video. "Hurt" was certainly one of those. Would Johnny Cash have gotten nearly as much attention if he hadn't had the guts to film this video?

Make no mistake about it - "Hurt" is one gutsy video. So much about entertainment is appearance and image-driven that it's downright shocking to see something that pretty much flies in the face of that. Boy, "Hurt" does so in spades. Not only does it portray Johnny Cash as old, but it drives the point home by juxtaposing the then-contemporary Cash with the familiar and practically iconic Cash of years past.

Watching the "Hurt" video is difficult on many levels. It's hard to see Cash in such an advanced state of decline, to the point where his trembling hands are pretty obviously no act. It's a heart-rending little film that definitely feels like a good-bye. While Johnny didn't immediately pass away after making this, it's clear he knew the writing was on the wall, and he wanted to make an artistic statement about it. It's such a brave and dramatic video that I have a hard time imagining the person who isn't affected by it. I'm sure they are out there, but I also don't want to be in their frame of mind.

Johnny Cash's "Hurt"

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