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Johnny Cash Birthday Celebration Brings Out Friends, Family + Fans in Texas

Johnny Cash 80
Robin Jones/Evening Standard/Getty Images

Johnny Cash would have turned 80-years-old this year, and though he isn’t alive to celebrate his birthday, the celebrations continue. On Friday night (April 20), Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theatre in Austin, Texas was packed nearly to capacity with eager fans, friends and family members who came together for a party in the late Man in Black’s honor.

The Johnny Cash Walk the Line event — meant to pay tribute to Cash’s legacy and recognize his birthday, which was February 26 — went off without a hitch in the capital city, just feet from the spot where the new 8-foot-tall Willie Nelson statue made its debut hours earlier. Of course, Willie Nelson was in attendance to honor the legend, as were Ronnie Dunn, Shooter Jennings, Sheryl Crow, Jamey Johnson, Lucinda Williams, Kris Kristofferson and many more.

Texas native and Austin favorite Matthew McConaughey played host for the evening, providing a little local color while bridging the gap between the audience and the big-name artists who took the stage. As for the music — well, let’s just say Cash would have been beaming from his seat had he been in attendance.

Each of the dozen plus musicians got a chance to shine in the set, which was split by a brief intermission. The songs were all of Cash’s fame, but those influenced by his legacy put in the same heart and soul that he would have performing them himself. Brandi Carlile opened the show with ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’ which amped up the crowd for the feel of the rest of the evening. Pat Monahan — of the pop group Train — provided a highlight when he took the stage with the Grammy-winning Shelby Lynne for the classic Johnny Cash and June Carter duet, the Bob Dylan-penned ‘It Ain’t Me Babe.’

Ronnie Dunn launched fans into the second half of the show with a rousing ‘Ring of Fire’ performance. Even McConaughey got his moment to spotlight his musical talents with the band backing, performing ‘The Man Comes Around’ after making light of his famous bongo incident, which got a big laugh. As expected, Willie Nelson got perhaps the warmest when he took the stage, and his intro into ‘I Still Miss Someone’ could hardly be heard over the cheering.

Kristofferson, Johnson and Jennings joined Nelson on the stage for ‘The Highway Man,’ before the entire roster was of acts invited back in front of the audience to close out the event with Cash’s first-ever No. 1 hit, ‘I Walk the Line.’

While Cash’s person was absent, it was evident he was there in spirit.

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