Eric Church made a statement during his performance at the 2020 ACM Awards, playing a recitation of Johnny Cash's "Ragged Old Flag,” before his single “Stick That In Your Country Song.” That would have never happened without the Country star putting pen to paper and reaching out to the Man In Black’s kids.
Church pitched the idea of using Cash’s words back in July and was met with heavy resistance from show executives and Johnny’s estate. ACM Awards Executive Producer RAC Clark tells Country Air Check Cash’s family was initially against the idea. “As we got into it, we found the Cash estate and publishers are very protective," he said. "No matter how much talking I did trying to get it cleared, it was a corporate wall."
So Eric took matters into his own hands and sent a letter to two of Cash's children, Rosanne and John Carter, explaining his motivation behind curating their father’s post-Nixon poem to a modern cry for national civility and pride. Clark says Eric’s letter beamed with "passion about what he wanted to say and why allowed them to entrust him with their father’s legacy.”
"I’m never going to share that letter, but it's the reason that performance aired.”
Sparse light created an silhouette of the “Drink In My Hand” singer, standing in the forefront of a large monitor flashing images of Cash. The country legend’s voice could be heard reciting lyrics to his 1974 classic:
“I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it'll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that's a ragged old flag you got hanging on it”
Church was nominated for two awards, Entertainer Of The Year and Song Of The Year, but walked away empty handed.