Two iconic stars from folk’s long and illustrious history came together when Joni Mitchell joined the late great Johnny Cash to perform ‘Girl from The North Country’ on ABC’s Johnny Cash Show back in 1970.
The song is a connecting one. Not only is it the song the Man in Black had earlier sang with its writer, Bob Dylan only a year earlier, but Mitchell had featured on the same episode and provided a quick snapshot of whom Cash regarded as the pinnacle of music at the time.
Johnny Cash may have had a cowboy-like image, playing the whisky-swilling, cigarette-smoking outlaw to a tee. But what many people forget is that Cash was a family man as well as ‘The Man in Black’. This was best shown in his charming, network-friendly TV programme ‘The Johnny Cash Show’.
Running from 1969 to 1971, the show was Cash’s way of cashing in on the fame that had come his way after the huge success of his two live albums. ABC reportedly offered him an hour-long pilot as “a summer replacement for its Saturday night variety extravaganza The Hollywood Palace.”
Although Cash was offered a large degree of freedom in the creation of the show he still had to keep the network and advertisers happy by hosting some of Hollywood’s royalty, like Bob Hope, Kirk Douglas, and Peggy Lee to name a few. As well as pleasing the West Coast, Cash also had to appeal to the intelligentsia of the East Coast.
It meant that while the show offered up some incredible moments for Johnny Cash fans often involving his wife June Carter, the Carter Family, The Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and The Tennessee Three, it also saw Cash welcome some of his most favoured musicians.
For his first show that included Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, it would set a precedent and mark out the show as an integral stop on the promo circuit. Cash and Dylan had been friends since 1964’s Newport Folk Festival and Mitchell’s contribution had similarly not gone unnoticed by the country legend.
He invited Mitchell back in 1970 to perform another song with him and it happens to be one of our favourite performances of ‘Girl from The North Country’ we’ve ever seen. Micthell and Cash’s opposing styles seem to offer all the light and shade that one needs to accurately show off Dylan’s work.
Below you can witness Joni Mitchell and the late, great Johnny Cash dueting Bob Dylan’s ‘Girl from The North Country’ back in 1970.