In the nine years since his death, there has been no shortage of biography specials examining the remarkable life of music legend Johnny Cash.
But an interesting new Ovation series starting tonight examines Cash's life and career in a different way -- in the context of six of his biggest hit songs: "I Walk the Line" (1956), "Ring of Fire" (1963), "Jackson," (1967), "A Boy Named Sue" (1969), "Sunday Morning Coming Down" (1970), and "Hurt" (2003).
Each installment of the six-part "Johnny Cash: Song by Song" series focuses on one of those songs and uses interviews with peers, family members, current musicians and journalists to paint a picture of what Cash was going through in his life and career during that time.
The first two episodes -- "I Walk the Line" and "Ring of Fire" -- debut tonight at 8 p.m. The other episodes will air two-at-a-time over the next two Sundays.
I haven't seen the first episodes, only the final one, "Hurt," which covers Nashville's rejection of Cash and then the resurgence of his career near the end of his life. Cash's professional relationship with record producer Rick Rubin is central to that story, but there is an emotional depth to the storytelling that makes it feel very personal at the same time. I hope the preceding episodes are as strong.
Just a few of the people interviewed in the final episode (and I would assume, the earlier ones as well) are Cash's manager Lou Robin, his son John Carter Cash, Tom Petty, Shooter Jennings, Grace Potter, Ben Folds, Chris Isaak, Shelby Lynne, Justin Townes Earl, and various other singers, writers and producers.
Ovation can be found on channels 326 and 1326 on Time Warner Cable; channels 274 and 1274 on DirecTV; channel 291 on DISH; and channel 385 on AT&T U-verse.