Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash are two of the most symbolic figures of Americana. The two legends of the genre helped change the face of music and, over the years, they have not been shy about the discussing the admiration that they had for one another—a friendship which is encapsulated in this footage of Cash’s iconic version of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ which was performed on Letterman in 1992.
The duo would only record together once during their 40-year friendship and, in 1969 when Cash made a cameo on Dylan’s Nashville Skyline record. However, the two first met at Newport Folk Festival in 1964 and, throughout their careers, they were always speaking in superlatives directed at each other, recognising that they were both the pinnace of their shared field.
“I had a portable record player that I’d take along on the road,” Cash wrote in Cash: The Autobiography. “And I’d put on [The] Freewheelin’ [Bob Dylan] backstage, then go out and do my show, then listen again as soon as I came off. After a while at that, I wrote Bob a letter telling him how much of a fan I was. He wrote back almost immediately, saying he’d been following my music since ‘I Walk the Line,’ and so we began a correspondence.”
“In plain terms, Johnny was and is the North Star; you could guide your ship by him—the greatest of the greats then and now,” Dylan wrote upon Cash’s passing in 2003. “Truly he is what the land and country is all about, the heart and soul of it personified and what it means to be here; and he said it all in plain English. I think we can have recollections of him, but we can’t define him any more than we can define a fountain of truth, light and beauty. If we want to know what it means to be mortal, we need look no further than the Man in Black. Blessed with a profound imagination, he used the gift to express all the various lost causes of the human soul.”
Despite the utmost of respect they had for each other, their schedules were hectic, to say the least. The result of that meant that their chances to share the stage together were few and far between but Cash’s cover of Dylan’s classic from 1992 will send shivers down your spine.
On October 16th, 1992, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the release of Dylan’s debut album, Cash, his wife June, and daughter Rosanne were among dozens of artist who paid tribute to Dylan during a huge concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
The concert featured Stevie Wonder taking on ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, Lou Reed covering Dylan’s ‘Foot Of Pride’, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers delivering a rendition of ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ while Cash and his wife sang ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’.
The night previously, Cash was a guest on the Late Night With David Letterman the night before the tribute concert, he performed a truly unique version of ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in tribute to his contemporary that he was in town to raise a toast for.
Check out the footage of this spellbinding performance, below.