Director Thom Zimny tells Johnny Cash’s story, with some help from Cash himself

Johnny Cash documentary

Johnny Cash, as seen in “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash.”

Thom Zimny had nearly completed making his documentary, “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” (now viewable via YouTube; see below). But he felt something was missing: Cash’s own voice, telling his own story.

But as Zimny, a Point Pleasant native and frequent Bruce Springsteen collaborator, told Mitch Slater in an installment of the “Financially Speaking With Mitch Slater” podcast (which also can be heard below), he made an important discovery when he interviewed writer Patrick Carr.

Cash wrote 1997’s “Cash: The Autobiography” with Carr’s help, and Carr still had 50 tapes that Cash had made, talking about his life.

“At that moment, I knew I had something,” Zimny told Slater. “The archivist in me said, ‘Wait a minute.’ And we got over 50 hours worth of audiotape of Johnny Cash, telling his life story.

“One thing Bruce Springsteen has taught me was to be ruthless in the editing process, and I had a whole movie built with other voices, and I tore that up and put Johnny’s voice in the movie, and reworked the movie with my editors. That was the game changer: Johnny came to the editing room. John arrived through cassettes. Johnny was telling the story. And that became ‘The Gift.’ ”

Zimny — whose projects with Springsteen include the co-direction of Springsteen’s new “Western Stars” movie — also talks, in the interview, about his virtually lifelong interest in Springsteen’s music.

“The very first record that I connected to, with Bruce, was Darkness on the Edge of Town,” he says. “My brother came home from college, and I remember the font, I remember the lyrics, and I remember looking around my house in New Jersey and seeing my father, who was a construction worker, and realizing that this music was so close to my own experience. …

“It was a lower middle-class, by-the-shore existence that was really important to me, to take in Bruce’s music, because he was bringing in details of the Jersey Shore life. But also, with Darkness, I was really connecting deeply with some of the frustrations I saw my very own father have, and just some of the questions that I was just starting to ponder as an adolescent. And this idea of ‘Badlands’ and ‘Promised Land’ … really, the ideas in there really triggered me to want be an artist, and also pursue a life that was different than my father’s.”

Here is “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” and, below that, the “Financially Speaking With Mitch Slater” podcast with Zimny. Below both is an excerpt from the Zimny-Slater interview.

THE MOVIE:

THE PODCAST:

Zimny, left, with Slater:

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