Johnny Cash died in 2003, but with the help of Rick Rubin he produced some of his most powerful music in his last years. In the Rubin-produced American Recordings series, the Man in Black brought his aging, wavering baritone voice to a younger generation with a minimalist sound and current covers mixed in with traditional American songs and originals.

American VI: Ain’t No Grave, which just dropped on the 17th, is the last of the series. It was recorded during the time when Johnny was dealing with the loss of his wife June Carter Cash. Rolling Stone got a chance to talk to Rubin about working with Cash during this vulnerable time:

He didn’t really have fear and he already was dealing with pain. I think he had acceptance. When he knew he was going to die, he was calm and matter of fact about it, and … that was it.

Johnny Cash was the quintessential American bad ass. With a history of pain and trouble, he embodied the spirit of rebellion wrapped in red, white, and blue. Even better, he wasn’t too cool to care. When he sat down with an acoustic guitar, Johnny Cash spilled himself into those recordings – recordings about death, struggle, pain, triumph, and religion that could chill you to the core. It’s hard to believe that after over 50 years of recordings, this is probably the last real Johnny Cash album we’ll ever have, but it couldn’t be more appropriate. It’s disheartening to see a lot of these fading rock stars from the 60’s wearing leather pants, tanning their wrinkling bodies, and dying their thinning, wiry hair. Johnny Cash went out with a style that was fitting, and whether you remember him as a young rebel performing at prisons or an old man in a long, black trench coat, you’ll be remembering him as a man with dignity and strength.

Johnny Cash – Ain’t No Grave | YouSendIt

Thanks to Dan, who had a Johnny Cash poster hanging on his wall when we were roommates, for the idea to post this.