Bare. Raw. Basic. Cash's version of "Hurt" is almost impossible to listen to … it’s hard to imagine someone putting it on a mix CD for a long car drive. It’s hard to imagine playing it at all. But once it starts, you can’t turn away until it ends.
When Rick Rubin, hip-hop pioneer, suggested that Cash sing “Hurt” on his latest produced-by-Rubin album, which would be the last Cash released before his death, he must have known something … not necessarily that he had a hit on his hands, but that a seamless blend was possible. Johnny Cash, rockabilly original, country music legend, singing a Nine Inch Nails song produced by a hip-hop legend … what seemed to the song’s composer, Trent Reznor, to be a bit gimmicky became something else entirely.
And the video? Simply one of the handful of greatest music videos of all time. When Reznor saw it for the first time, he was blown away: “Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps.” Don’t hit the play button on this video unless you’re prepared to watch it all.
And, for documentary purposes, the Nine Inch Nails video: