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Johnny Cash gets a postage stamp

06/05/2013, 12:30pm PDT
By Brian Mansfield, Special for USA TODAY

Family, friends and fans celebrated Wednesday at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

Johnny Cash got a postage stamp Wednesday, at the same venue where he met the love of his life, where he filmed his network television show and where he broke all the footlights.

Family, friends and fans of the singer, who died in September 2002, gathered at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville to celebrate the United States Postal Service's commemorative stamp. The stamp, part of its Music Icons Series, features a black-and-white image of Cash's somber, intense visage from photographer Frank Bez's shoot for Cash's 1963 album Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash.

Dennis J. Toner, a member of the United States Postal Service's board of governors, called Cash "the man who told the story of our nation one person at a time" and quoted from his song Tear Stained Letter.

Later, one of Cash's daughters, Kathy Cash, said that her father and her mother, Vivian Liberto Cash, had exchanged 10,000 letters during their courtship. "Dad was no stranger to licking a stamp," she said.

For two hours, performers including son John Carter Cash, Randy Travis, Marty Stuart, Jamey Johnson, the Oak Ridge Boys and Cash's two surviving siblings, Tommy Cash and Joanne Cash-Yates, paid tribute the Country Music Hall of Famer by performing several of his hits and favorite songs.

John Schneider, who used to live in the cabin on the Cash property that John Carter Cash now uses as a recording studio, sang A Boy Named Sue to highlight the singer's under-acknowledged "goofy side."

Stepdaughter Carlene Carter and Larry Gatlin hammed it up with a version of Jackson, a Grammy-winning hit for Cash and June Carter, whom Cash had met at the Ryman and who later became his second wife.

Gatlin also sang Help Me, a song he sang at the funerals of both Johnny and June, four months apart in 2003. "I talked to an interviewer today who asked, 'What do you think of them putting Johnny Cash's face on a stamp?'" Gatlin said. "I said, 'As far as I'm concerned, they can put it on the American flag."

The most emotional moment came when John Carter Cash sang Hurt, the Nine Inch Nails song that provided his father with his last major hit. As he introduced the song, the younger Cash said: "My father died with a broken heart, but it did not kill him. His body simply gave up. His spirit endured."

Tag(s): Half Marathon