Saturday, Sept. 12 with mark the 12th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s death at age 71, and to commemorate the anniversary, as well as the 50-year career that preceded it, CMT will air American Rebel: Johnny Cash, a new documentary about the singer and the first to have cooperation from his family. His son with June Carter Cash, John Carter Cash, his daughter with his first wife Vivian, Rosanne Cash, and June’s daughter, Carlene Carter, were all involved with the project.
It also features interviews from his peers, Merle Haggard, who was an inmate in the audience for Cash’s famed 1958 performance at San Quentin Prison before becoming a friend, record executive Clive Davis, Kris Kristofferson, who was a part-time janitor when he met Cash at a Nashville recording studio, Rodney Crowell, John Mellencamp, Kid Rock, Eric Church, Sheryl Crowe, and more.
“The documentary to me stands alone as unique, as walking a ground that hasn’t been tread on before,” John Carter tells EW, sitting in a conference room overlooking Times Square in Manhattan. Much of Cash’s life has been covered before, most famously in the 2005 biopic Walk The Line, starring Reese Witherspoon as June and Jaoquin Pheonix as Johnny. But what has been most overlooked, according to John Carter, was Cash’s humor and lightness of being.
“People are attracted to the image of cool and darkness,” John Carter says. “But my father was a man of many different faces. There was a lot to my dad that was very simple in nature: His faith in God, the humility he continued to carry with him despite the charisma he developed on stage, his love for my mother. Dad would have much rather laughed than cried. People miss that but it’s an important part of who he was. I mean, the funny music’s there.”
One of the quickest ways to witness Cash from this angle, is to witness him on stage next to his longtime wife and performing partner June. “Something magical happened when they got on stage together, there was a magic. My mother had always been a comedian and relied more on her personality and her charm for her performance than her talent but when she stood beside my dad on stage she was taken more seriously and his darkness was suddenly light. It was this creature that they created together, it was greater than the sum of its two parts.”
Now, EW is thrilled to debut an exclusive clip from the doc that shows just that. A clip of June visiting Cash on his variety show is streaming below.