In the final stage of his career, Johnny Cash recorded a series of albums covering popular songs from a range of musicians. Arguable the most successful was American IV: The Man Comes around, producing Cash’s final hit song before he passed away on Sept. 12th, 2003.
Cash’s cover of Hurt, originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails and written by lead singer Trent Reznor. The song itself is a searing self reflection of the harm a person can cause those around them, and is given another layer of meaning from his own struggles with alcoholism, and drug abuse. The accompanying music video was directed by Mark Romanek, and won a Grammy for best video. It features video from his life, shots of the long abandoned House of Cash museum, and present day footage of both Johnny and his wife, June Carter Cash. June would pass away only three months after filming.
Although Trent Reznor initially had some reservations about Cash covering Hurt, he was very moved by the songs video, saying:
“I pop the video in, and wow. Tears welling, silence, goose bumps… Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore… It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure.”