On This Day: Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ Racks Up 6 Nominations at MTV VMA’s in 2003

by Clayton Edwards

Johnny Cash was one of the greatest performers that country music has ever seen. It didn’t matter if he was singing an original or a cover. The guy couldn’t miss. It’s hard for just about anyone to ignore that fact. 18 years ago today, MTV’s Video Music Awards took notice. They nominated the video for Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” for six Moonmen.

Have you watched the video for “Hurt,” lately? It’s moving footage that shows Johnny Cash in his final months. The song, as he sings it, is a heavy one. However, the video gives it a little more weight. It shifts between footage of the aged legend performing the song in his home, shots of the House Cash museum, religious iconography, and vintage footage. Check it out below. Then, we’ll talk more about the nominations.

The video was up for Best Male Video, Best Video, Best Direction, Best Art Direction, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography. However, it only took home the award for Best Cinematography.

The cinematography in the video is great. However, I would argue that this may be the most moving music video ever filmed. If it isn’t, it didn’t miss the mark by much. It’s such a candid look at Johnny Cash and the pain he was feeling as well as his deteriorating health. They filmed the video in February of 2003. He and June would both pass away before the end of the year.

More About Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ Video

Honestly, you could watch the video on mute and it would be a deeply touching piece of film. There’s a scene near the end where Johnny Cash is sitting at a banquet table. He begins to pour a glass of wind out over the table and you can see his hand shaking from the effort. Then, there is a moment where it looks like he is in tearful prayer. These scenes are separated by shots of June looking on with a pained expression. Seriously, it’s enough to give you chills without the music.

Mark Romanek told Rolling Stone that he found inspiration for the video in the House of Cash Museum. When he came to Tennessee to shoot the video, the museum had been closed for a long time. So, it was showing signs of decay and dereliction. The director drew a comparison between the state of the museum and Johnny Cash’s physical health. That connection, Johnny’s faith, and his legacy all informed the final product.

The video for Hurt brought Johnny Cash two more awards. It took home Best Short Form Video at the 2004 Grammy Awards as well as Music Video of the Year at the 2003 CMA Awards. Both of those were awarded posthumously.