Johnny Cash – “Hurt”
I remember when this video came out and was blown away by the transparency of what it set out to accomplish. I was familiar with the Nine Inch Nails original, and was intrigued that JC had not only cut it, but shot the video. This video traces his roots from materialism, to sin, to brokenness, and back to grace. Additionally, this is one of the best music videos I have ever seen in my life. It is symbolic and simple in the most provocative of ways. A portrayal of art. Considering this was released just months before the death of both he and his wife, June Carter Cash maximizes the impact of what the song conveys and speaks. “Vanity, vanity..” are the echoes of Solomon. The Gospel is worth dying for when you see it fully lit.
Dr. Russell Moore comments:
Cash’s haunting music video for the song features faded film shots of his youthful glory days—complete with the images of friends and colleagues, once at the height of their fame, who are now dead. As the camera pans Cash’s wizened, wrinkled face, he sings about the awful reality of death and the vanity of fame: “What have I become? My sweetest friend / Everyone I know goes away in the end / You could have it all / My empire of dirt / I will let you down, I will make you hurt.”
Whereas, the Nine Inch Nails delivered “Hurt” as straight nihilism, Cash gives it a twist—ending the video with the scenes of crucifixion, which, for Cash, was (and still is) the only answer to the inevitability of suffering and pain.
The video of “Hurt” communicated exactly what the dying Cash seemed to understand, echoing Solomon of old: wealth, celebrity, fame, all of it is vanity in the maw of the grave. By contrasting images of the young celebrated Cash with images of the old, gasping, arthritic Cash, his “House of Cash” closed down and boarded over, the video turned then to what Cash saw as the only real alternative to his empire of dirt: the cross of Christ Jesus.
Touche, Dr. Moore. More “Cash” value for our theology.