You have to admire people who don’t allow their advancing age to hold them back. Even more, you have to admire people whose presence is so strong that they continue to make an impact even after their death.
Many members of the Country Music Hall of Fame fit one — or both — of those descriptions. Several Hall of Famers — Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams — are making headlines these days for their longevity or for new projects that add to their legacy.
Here’s what’s up:
• The music Johnny recorded during the final months of his life in 2003 is being released Tuesday under the title American VI: Ain’t No Grave. He was grieving the loss of his wife, June Carter, and struggling with his own health even as he remade such country classics as “For The Good Times,” “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” and “Cool Water.” He was 71 at the time, and he sounds it, leading The Los Angeles Times to re-dub the set The Hospice Sessions. Not that that would have stopped the Man in Black from putting the album out. “He wanted this record to be released,” son John Carter Cash told The Times. “He was always willing to show his weakness and his frailties. I think it’s one way people related to him: He’s not saying he’s perfect, but just look at him, listen to that voice, look at that determination. He was right.”
• Loretta Lynn is celebrating a monumental anniversary in 2010: It’s been 50 years since she recorded her very first hit, “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl.” “Ain’t that something?” she marvelled to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I couldn’t believe it when they told me how long it’s been.” Loretta continues to tour, and she’ll be included in this summer’s Lilith Fair lineup, which also features the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Emmylou Harris, Colbie Caillat, Miranda Lambert, Heart, Mary J. Blige and Norah Jones. Even with five decades of touring under her belt, Loretta isn’t even considering retirement. “I believe in work,” she said. “I always have.”
• Hank Williams’ final days are being commemorated with a new movie, tentatively titled The Last Ride. Shooting took place in downtown Benton, Ark., this week, according to The Benton Courier, with automobiles and street signs revamped to reflect the early 1950s. Hank’s role is being covered by Henry Thomas, who kick-started his acting career as Elliott in the 1982 movie E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Incidentally, the only famous E.T. Hank knew was fellow Hall of Famer Ernest Tubb!
• Roy Clark joined the Hall of Fame just last May. He had the chance as a youngster to see Hank in concert, and part of the reason Hank still commands so much attention is, from Roy’s perspective, a combination of talent and mystery. “That left such an impression on me,” Roy told The Houston Chronicle. “I still haven’t figured it out. All he did was come out and stand and sing. He’d talk just a little bit between songs and maybe tell a corny joke. But he didn’t do any tricks. There was just something that emanated from him that was mind-boggling, and I still feel it today. Just something that certain artists have over the years that’s deep within their talents.”