National Library of Israel Releases Photos of Johnny Cash’s Visit to the “Holy Land” | JNS

The National Library of Israel in Jerusalem has published rare photographs of a visit in November 1971 by legendary musician Johnny Cash to Israel. It came during a professional and spiritual resurgence for the star after years of struggling with alcohol and drug abuse.

Unlike his previous two trips, his arrival in 1971 was accompanied by more fanfare, including a fancy reception hosted in Jerusalem documented in the recently released footage.

The reason for the trip was to shoot a film, narrated by Cash, about the life of Jesus. “Gospel Road: A Story of Jesus” will be released the following year.

We see Cash singing from the top of Mount Arbel in the Galilee, his country-tinged gospel music accompanying a helicopter shot of the Jordan River. While the film did not perform well at the box office, it would ultimately become something of a cult hit with Evangelical Christian audiences.

American singer and songwriter Johnny Cash at a sumptuous meal in Jerusalem, held in his honor during his third visit to Israel, in November 1971. Credit: The Dan Hadani Archive, Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel, Jerusalem / IPPA staff.

Cash first arrived in Israel in 1966 on a religious pilgrimage, visiting Christian sites across the country. Two years later, he returned, accompanied by his new wife, June Carter Cash.

This second trip inspired an entire Christian-themed concept album, “The Holy Land”. The 1969 record featured songs with titles like “Land of Israel,“ The Ten Commandments ”and“ Come to the Wailing Wall ”. Cash even mentioned the visit during his legendary performance “Live at San Quentin” the same year, explaining that the song “He Turned the Water Into Wine” was written “on the way to Tiberias, in the car”.

The photos come from Dan Hadani’s archive, which includes nearly a million images capturing Israeli life and historical events from 1965 to 2000. In 2016, Hadani transferred the entire archive, including the negatives, to the library with the transfer made possible by the generous support of the William Davidson Foundation.

American singer and songwriter Johnny Cash accepts a gift from a fan on his third visit to Israel in November 1971. Credit: The Dan Hadani Archive, Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel, Jerusalem / IPPA staff .

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