Video Vault 104: Johnny Cash, “Hurt”


Trent Reznor was afraid that it would be gimmicky if Johnny Cash covered his song “Hurt.” When he first heard the recording the fear of gimmick disappeared – but he still felt like something had been taken from him; like someone had ‘stolen his girlfriend.’ Fair enough – “Hurt” reads as more of a diary entry than a hit song. What could feel more personal and frankly, more proprietary, than the words you write down in your bedroom in a fit of despair and sadness and mental and corporeal fatigue?

And then he saw the video – or maybe we should call it a visual tour de force of storytelling.

Director Mark Romanek conceived of and filmed the video for “Hurt” in a matter of days to accommodate an ailing Johnny Cash. It is, somehow all at the same time, a vanitas painting, a home video, a premature memorial (Johnny would die within the year), and a retrospective. A table in the dusty and recently shuttered Cash family home is covered with a feast that is never going to be eaten; old videos of the Man In Black throughout his life and career are juxtaposed to shots of Johnny and June in 2002; at 2:36 we’re all voyeurs, watching June watch Johnny with a knowing mix of love and sadness that cuts at the quick.

And just like that, “Hurt” didn’t just belong to Trent Reznor anymore.

Then it all made sense to me. It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form…I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. Somehow that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning – different, but every bit as pure.”

                                                – Trent Reznor, Alternative Press, June 26, 2004


Take a look.



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