Country Throwback: Johnny Cash Honored at Kennedy Centre with Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett Medley Performance 24 Years Ago Today

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Johnny Cash was never known for being emotional, at least not in public. But a 1996 tribute at the Kennedy Centre actually made the Man in Black tear up.

It’s been 24 years since the nation honored Cash with a medley of musical guest performances in Washington D.C. Cash’s music defied the boundaries of country music, influencing generations to come. He existed in the same conversation as Elvis Presley or The Beatles, living legends in the music industry.

The nation as a whole honored Cash’s contribution to the performing arts with a celebrity-filled ceremony. Former Vice President Al Gore was the one that recommended Cash for the honor. He said Cash’s music explored “the entire range of existence, failure, and recovery, entrapment, and escape, weakness and strength, loss and redemption, life and death.”

Guests paying tribute included Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovette, and also Emmylou Harris. But it was Cash’s daughter Rosanne getting on stage that made him get a little misty-eyed. They performed several of Cash’s greatest hits and most known works including “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Johnny Cash Had a Career that Spanned Decades

There will never be another Johnny Cash. The musician has a long and storied career that spanned decades. In fact, Cash was the sort of musician that kept recording and performing until his dying day. Across his career, he’s received numerous awards including a National Medal of Arts and a Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Near the end of his life, Cash continued to persevere with his passion for music. Wheelchair-bound and experiencing pneumonia, Cash would still work on new music and songs. In fact, according to his son John, he increased his songwriting efforts.

“In the face of his life’s greatest struggle, the face of his infirmities taking over and his inevitable death on the way, Dad didn’t only continue his creative endeavors of performing and singing but he actually quadrupled his efforts,” John Carter Cash said.

Cash passed away in 2003, just months after his wife and love of his June Carter Cash passed.