In 1971, the American country singer Johnny Cash came to the Jewish state for the third of five visits he would make during his lifetime. Researchers at the National Library of Israel recently discovered a large collection of photographs from an official reception for Cash, where numerous local media figures were present. Shai Ben-Ari writes:
[Cash] first came in 1966 for a religious pilgrimage, visiting Christian sites across the country. Cash was so impressed that in 1968 he returned, accompanied by his new wife, June Carter Cash. This second trip inspired an entire album, The Holy Land, released the next year. The record featured songs with such titles as “Land of Israel,” “The Ten Commandments,” and “Come to the Wailing Wall.”
[The record] includes interludes between the songs featuring audio recorded on-site at various locations across Israel: a market in Nazareth, a hotel in Tiberias on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, among other sites. In these spoken-word segments, Johnny and June describe what they see around them in real-time, with surrounding noises and Hebrew chatter clearly audible in the background, along with the occasional tour guide providing explanations of the religious scenery.
Cash’s next album, Johnny Cash at San Quentin, a live 1969 recording in front of an audience of prisoners at a notorious California jail, was one of the best selling of his career. The record includes a segment in which Cash speaks of his experiences in Israel a year earlier, before introducing the song “He Turned the Water into Wine,” which was written “on the way to Tiberias, in the car.”
During his next visit, in 1977, Cash met with Prime Minister Menachem Begin and also gave an impromptu performance at Hadassah hospital