Rick Rubin on the coolest guy that he ever worked with: “He loved being an artist”

Meta Description: Discover how Rick Rubin revived Johnny Cash’s career with the iconic “American Recordings” series, blending country and rock in a legendary partnership.

Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin: The Legendary Collaboration that Revitalized a Career

Rick Rubin, often seen as a Zen master of music, has produced some of the most iconic albums across various genres. Known for bringing hip-hop acts like Run-DMC to the masses, Rubin has also helped artists like Kanye West, Slipknot, and The Strokes reconnect with their core sound. Among his most iconic collaborations, Rubin has cited Johnny Cash as the coolest person to share a studio with.

Johnny Cash: A Living Legend

By the time Rick Rubin got involved, Johnny Cash was already a living legend. Though he had experienced downturns in his career, especially during the 1980s, the 1990s saw him content with his work in the supergroup, The Highwaymen. However, Cash’s commercial image needed a revival, and Rubin’s plan was to bring back the ‘Man in Black’ persona that had made Cash famous.

The Birth of American Recordings

Rubin’s vision for Johnny Cash was to reconnect him with his gothic, iconic image through the American Recordings series. Rather than sticking to a tried-and-true sound, the covers and original tracks Rubin and Cash assembled focused on storytelling and emotional depth. Cash’s ability to convey stories through his voice brought a sense of resurrection, reminiscent of his powerful performances from “At Folsom Prison.”

The Studio Experience with Rick Rubin

Despite Cash’s health challenges during the recording of the American Recordings series, Rubin admired Cash’s dedication and humility. Speaking to Sound City, Rubin shared, “He was the coolest guy in the world, and he was really humble. He was sick during the making of that record, and there were times where we had to take breaks, but he loved recording. He loved being an artist.”

A New Era for Johnny Cash

The release of American Recordings marked the beginning of a new era for Cash, endearing him to rock fans and country fans alike. With the help of the Heartbreakers on his next album, Unchained, Cash re-established his credibility as an artist. This era sounded as if Cash had been influenced by artists like Nick Cave, blending country with a darker, more introspective edge.

Artistic Integrity and Exploration

Throughout the American series, Cash’s artistic integrity shone through. On albums like American IV: The Man Comes Around, he explored new vocal territories, covering country classics like ‘Give My Love to Rose’ and reinterpreting songs like ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘In My Life.’ These renditions showcased Cash’s ability to match his deep bass tone from his prime, reminding everyone of his lasting impact on the music industry.


The collaboration between Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash not only revived Cash’s career but also created some of the most memorable music of his career. Their partnership highlighted Cash’s timeless appeal and Rubin’s genius as a producer, proving that true legends of the music industry should never be counted out.

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