There were few musical artists - in any genre - to have the worldwide impact that Johnny Cash had on music and popular culture. Almost a decade after his passing, his music still captivates audiences from all over.
Later this year, that audience can feel the vision, spirit and music of the "Man In Black" all over again with the opening of The Johnny Cash Museum in downtown Nashville.
The museum unites the collection of Bill Miller - a longtime friend of Cash, as well as the founder of the Johnny Cash website, and memorabilia from friends, colleagues, and family members. Included in the collection are early letters and documents from Cash as well as the handwritten manuscript to the last song ever written by the Country Music Hall of Fame member -- penned just a few days before his passing on September 12, 2003.
Miller said that the museum will be a three-dimensional journey through Cash's life, thanks to innovative interactions via Nashville-based company Griffin Technologies. Miller told Billboard that the Johnny Cash Museum is something that comes from the heart.
"It's the biggest labor of love I have ever been involved with, other than the birth of my children and my beautiful wife," he said.
What was it about the music of Cash? Miller, a fan who said he would sneak backstage to Cash's shows, offered his opinion about the allure of Johnny Cash.
"It was the authenticity, the voice, but early on, it went way beyond the music. It was the man. Watching the triumphs and the struggles, and the victories -- knowing this guy who had come from nothing had made it big, then threw it all away, and made it big again. You can conquer all if you really work hard enough at it. He's an inspiration, not only to me, but to millions of people."
That influence continues to this day. "We operate his web site, and get tens of thousands of emails from people who say they had given up. I lost my job due to drugs or alcohol, and I was ready to give up until I heard this Johnny Cash song. We get that all the time. It was the message in the music, but it was the man himself."
Many of Cash's family members were present for the announcement, such as brother Tommy and sister Joanne, as well as his son with June Carter, John Carter Cash, who said that the man he knew as "Dad" and the artist known as Johnny Cash are separate entities.
"To me, there are two different people in many ways. I miss my dad every day. I can't call him. I can't talk to him. Then, you have Johnny Cash, I am in contact with him on a daily basis. I see him all the time. He's still a big part of my life. Hopefully, things are still being carried on as my dad would like to have seen them done. He was a man of integrity. All through his life, he based his decisions upon morality. I believe his music is an extension of that."
John Carter thinks his father would be proud of the museum - scheduled to open in the summer of 2012. "I believe he would be excited about this, and believe in. I think this would offer a true picture of my father, and show a deeper insight into his spirit and who he really was."
For his family, the museum offers a chance to share Johnny Cash with the world. There was a House Of Cash Museum, located in Hendersonville, but it closed shortly after the death of Carrie Cash, Johnny's mother in the 1990s.
"My father had the museum in Hendersonville, and after my grandmother passed away - which she loved the place, and was there a lot - that made him connect with her, but it made him miss her more to go to the museum," said John Carter. "But, the spirit of them will drive on."
And, so does the music of Johnny Cash. Columbia/ Legacy, a division of Sony Music Entertainment will be releasing Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul Of Truth at all physical and digital retail outlets starting April 3rd. The project is a 2-CD, 51-track collection which compiles gospel and spiritual recordings (both released and previously unreleased) made by Cash in the 1970s and '80s.