Country-Western singing legend Johnny Cash, who died last week in Nashville at age 71, was remembered fondly by Israeli officials as a staunch supporter of the Jewish state.
A frequent visitor to Israel, Cash released an album in 1968 titled ‘The Holy Land’ which dealt with his love of the country. The lyrics to one of the songs on that album, ‘Come to the Wailing Wall,’ speak movingly of the strong connection he felt:
“Shout it across the mountain/Shout it cross the sea/We have been delivered/Israel is free/Come to the Wailing Wall…
“Bring the lost ones homeward/Lead them to this shore/The city gates are open/Heaven’s blessing o?er/Come to the Wailing Wall…”
Born in 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas, Cash worked as a custodian before enlisting in the Air Force, where he picked up the guitar while stationed in Germany. His musical career began in 1955 at about the same time that the rockabilly style of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis was beginning to cross over to the mainstream pop charts.
After a quick start, Cash’s career went through some lean times. Always candid about his troubles with drugs and the law, Cash attributed his later turnaround to a newfound commitment to biblical Christianity and his marriage to singer June Carter Cash, who died last spring.
Cash’s biggest selling single was the 1969 release ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ a raucous ballad penned by Jewish songwriter Shel Silverstein.
In 1986 Cash received the Shalom Peace Award from the Jewish National Fund.
Shortly after his death was announced, the State of Israel released a statement ‘to express its condolences to the family of the late Johnny Cash, an American icon and true friend of Israel…. Johnny Cash was loved by Israelis and his music will live on in the pubs, cafes and hearts of a grateful nation.’