Exclusive: A rare and intimate chat with music royalty

RAISED on a 40 acre cotton farm in northeast Arkansas, an appreciation for the land was sparked in a young Johnny (J.R.) Cash.

His hardworking parents Ray and Carrie Cash raised a family of seven children in a town called Dyess. J.R. being the middle child, born on February 26, 1932, was destined for success.

On Tuesday, in a rare and exclusive interview, The Morning Bulletin spoke to the music megastar's only surviving sister, Joanne Cash from Tennessee.

Read about the time Johnny Cash came to Rocky here. 

She generously discussed her brother's legacy, the restoration of their childhood home and her musical career.

First, Joanne painted a picture of what it was like for the Cash family growing up in a rural area during her early years.

Joanne Cash with brother Johnny Cash.
Joanne Cash with brother Johnny Cash.

"Our way of life was to work the cotton fields, and literally get down in the dirt and realise how things grow and how they become a part of your life," she said.

From an early age, the Cash kids were raised to love the land and be thankful to God for the blessings they had been given.

"It makes me very compassionate to realise what hard work can bring, and to have the blessing of growing your own food and harvesting your own crops," she said.

Looking back to her younger years, Joanne took pride to say she had grown up in a close-knit family, and cherished a close bond with her late brother, Johnny.

"Back then, families worked, prayed and attended church together," she said.

"My dad would pray for each one of our meals."

Along with prayer, music was always a part of the Cash family's lives, and they would sing all day long while they worked on the cotton fields "to pass the time away".

"We'd sing at night (for about an hour) after our evening meal and (when we) had cleaned the kitchen, my mother played the piano," she said.

It was during Johnny's formative years when he realised he'd been given a passion for singing, and so did his family.

"He was always smiling and was making people laugh especially at home, his sincerity in his music still touches people today," she said.

Joanne said her brother's legacy would be his humility and sincerity within the lyrics he wrote and recorded.

After his passing in 2003, Mr Cash is still adored by millions around the world, and holds a special place in the hearts of his loved ones.

"I miss him more than words can ever say," she said.

In recent times, members of the Cash family saw the completion of the restoration project for their childhood home in Arkansas.

Restored with marvellous detail, it was a bittersweet moment for Joanne to step back in time.

"I was a consultant because I lived the first 17 years of my life in that house," she said.

Joanne helped place furniture and other items in their rightful positions, which added an extra special layer of authenticity to the effort.

"When it was completed and I walked in, there were a lot of tears," she said.

"When I take families and friends back to the house, I give people a personal tour of the house … it's beautiful and looks exactly like it did in the 1930s and 1940s."

With music flowing through her veins, Joanne has already established an accomplished artistry in her own right.

Joanne and her husband, Harry Yates are both pastors at the Nashville Cowboy Church.

"I love to sing, I still do a concert every Tuesday night in the Opryland area and every Sunday morning at our church," she said.

"Sometimes we'll go out on the road and do ministries, he'll preach and I'll sing."

Now she's revealed work has begun on her 31st album, with songs already having been recorded.

Joanne hoped her new record would be released this year. But that's not the only exciting project she wanted to share.

"In the last few days, I just finished a brand new book on my life," she said.

"We are still working on a film about Johnny's spiritual life called Redemption of an American Icon." In the meantime, you can listen to Joanne Cash's 2018 album, Unbroken on iTunes and Spotify.

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