Paul McCartney and Rolling Stones singer-guitarist Keith Richards are among those paying tribute to Johnny Cash on an upcoming two-disc career retrospective. The Essential Johnny Cash, due February 26 from Columbia/Legacy Records, features more than 30 testimonials to Cash from artists including McCartney, Richards, Bono and the Edge of U2, Elvis Costello, former Vice President Al Gore, and even Shawn Crahan of the heavy metal band Slipknot.
The Essential Johnny Cash, part of a campaign to celebrate the ailing Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer’s 70th birthday on February 26, compiles 36 digitally remastered tracks recorded not only for Columbia but also for the Sun and Mercury labels, including classics such as “I Walk The Line,” “Ring Of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and “A Boy Named Sue.” The anthology also includes a duet with Bob Dylan on the latter’s “Girl From The North Country,” a duet with his wife June Carter Cash on Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” and “The Wanderer,” which Cash recorded with U2 for the group’s 1993 Zooropa album.
Cash was hospitalized twice in 2001 for bronchitis and has suffered a variety of other maladies relating to a nervous-system disorder called autonomic neuropathy. The health issues have put his career on hiatus, although any rumors of retirement have been pointedly denied by his camp.
Following The Essential Johnny Cash, Columbia/Legacy plans to reissue expanded editions of some of Cash’s albums for Columbia. Coming March 12 are the 1959 albums The Fabulous Johnny Cash and Hymns By Johnny Cash, 1960’s Ride This Train: A Stirring Travelogue Of America In Song And Story, 1965’s Orange Blossom Special, and 1967’s Carryin’ On With Johnny Cash And June Carter.
Later this year, Sony Nashville will release a Cash tribute album produced by country musician Marty Stuart and featuring tracks performed by Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam, Shelby Lynne, Travis Tritt, and others.