Seven years after his passing, the legendary Johnny Cash has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of “Best Short Form Music Video.” The thoroughly groundbreaking piece, “‘Ain’t No Grave’/The Johnny Cash Project” is a video for the title track of Cash’s final studio recording, last February’s American Recordings VI: Ain’t No Grave (American Recordings/Lost Highway). The nominated video is culled from a continually evolving project created frame-by-frame, by tens of thousands of people around the world and is a testament to the life and career of The Man In Black. Cash’s passing made it impossible for him to create a video for his last studio album, but in this dynamic crowd-sourced piece, his fans came together to create it for him.
Directed by acclaimed video director Chris Milk, “‘Ain’t No Grave’/The Johnny Cash Project,” which can be viewed here, is an is an online global collective art project that was launched in April 2010 with a goal of engaging fans from all over the globe in an unprecedented collaborative project: to create a music video for the track “Ain’t No Grave.”
The project is unique for several reasons, least of which is the fact that the album that inspired it is the sixth and final installment of Cash’s critically-acclaimed, Rick Rubin-produced American Recordings album series, and Cash’s last studio recording. Ever more unusual is the format Milk and Rubin chose for this video – one that would give new life to a departed music icon, and in so-doing, create a brilliantly-executed marketing strategy for the album itself. “‘Ain’t No Grave’/The Johnny Cash Project” empowered fans to create a living portrait and a dynamic tribute to Cash that would never be viewed the same way twice, offering a single image template where people could use a custom tool to share their visions of Johnny Cash by drawing their own frames. Strung together and played in sequence over the song “Ain’t No Grave,” the frames create a visually breathtaking homage to Cash.
“This nomination is really a testament to Johnny and the impact he had on people around the world. It was through the amazing artistry and generosity of Johnny Cash fans that this video came to fruition,” said Milk. “Through their love and creativity, they give Johnny the eternal life he sings about in ‘Ain’t No Grave.’ They have created an ever-changing and constantly growing living portrait of the man we all loved so dearly. Everyone involved in the project is truly honored by the Recording Academy’s nomination. In a perfect world, not only would we be lucky enough to win, but there would be Grammy statuettes for the few hundred thousand people out there who truly made this project possible.”
“‘Ain’t No Grave’/The Johnny Cash Project” is a collaboration between Chris Milk, Rubin’s American Recordings and Lost Highway Records, Aaron Koblin, @radical.media and the Johnny Cash Estate. Explained Rubin, “Chris told me about this great art project he had in mind, but needed an iconic artist for it to work. His description of it sounded so new and unusual that I was interested just to get to see it. While I think he had originally intended to work with a living artist, I suggested Johnny Cash; he thought about it and realized that Johnny’s passing changed the meaning of the project for the better, and ‘The Johnny Cash Project’ was born.”
The video for “‘Ain’t No Grave’/The Johnny Cash Project” shares the Best Short Form Music Video category with Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” “Cee Lo Green’s “F**k You,” “Stylo” by Gorillaz, Mos Def and Bobby Womack, and Eminem & Rhianna’s “Love the Way You Lie.”
The Grammy Awards will be handed out on February 13 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.