WATCH: Johnny Cash Belts Easter Song ‘Were You There?’ Along With the Carter Family

by Clayton Edwards

Easter is a sacred day for many people around the world. When you get past the commercialization and the mountains of candy, it is a day to reflect on and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. This morning, thousands of Americans are gathering in prayer and reflection in observance of this holy day. Many will read the Gospels and sing hymns. Unlike Christmas, there aren’t many songs written specifically for this sacred time. However, if you thumb through your hymnal long enough, you will find a handful of songs that are fitting for this springtime celebration. If you need a little help finding music to match the day, look no further than this video of Johnny Cash and the Carter family singing “Were You There?”

Johnny Cash was a man of faith. He had many earthly trials and tribulations over the years. However, he always held fast to his belief in God. He battled with addiction, adultery, and the myriad problems that come with both. But, after he married June Carter in 1968, he turned his life around. In fact, in the late seventies, he earned a degree in theology and became a minister.

However, this video was recorded in 1960. Johnny Cash was still deep in his addiction to amphetamines. And sadly, it shows. For anyone who has seen the ravages of amphetamines, it is obvious that the Man in Black is dealing with a serious habit. To those who can’t spot the signs, Cash still looks rough. Of course, his voice is still golden.

Johnny Cash and the Carter Family Sing a Song of Worship

Johnny Cash’s haggard appearance and obvious addiction issues may make the performance better in a way. See, Cash sings praises to the Lord in a way that only a lost and embattled sinner can. At the same time, his appearance is a wonderful juxtaposition with the Carter Family.

He is gaunt and dressed in a customary black suit. Behind him, the ladies of the Carter family are dressed in pristine blue. Their voices are probably the closest thing you’re going to get to an angelic choir here on Earth. Johnny Cash’s voice, on the other hand, is its normal buttery baritone. He and the ladies differ so greatly in almost every aspect that it serves to drive the point of the song home.

“Were You There?” discusses the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those acts are seminal to the Christian faith in that Christ died for everyone. So, seeing Johnny Cash and the Carter family who are so different yet so alike in their faith is a beautiful illustration of the universality of the sacrifice made on Golgotha.

If you celebrate Easter, take a moment to think about why as you listen to Johnny Cash and the Carter Family sing this classic hymn.