18/09/2003 - The family of Johnny Cash, who died on 12 September, have asked in a statement to fans and friends of the country music revolutionary for donations to SOS Children's Villages USA.
Relatives of the musician who died last week have invited friends and fans to donate to SOS Children's Villages USA in his memory. Chris Zappia, director of SOS Children's Villages in the United States, was initially both surprised and honoured: "On behalf of our children and staff in our more than 400 villages around the world, we wish to express our condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Cash. We are deeply honoured to be the charity the family has named in this great man's memory."
Asking people to donate in this way is not a coincidence: the link between SOS Children's Villages and Johnny Cash has a long tradition, going back to the '70s. He and his wife June, who died in May this year, owned a property in Jamaica near to SOS Children's Village Barrat Town, by Montego Bay, which was opened in 1972. June and Johnny Cash financed the construction of a family house and were there for its opening in 1973. They visited the village whenever possible, Johnny Cash usually bringing his guitar and singing with the children. Their last visit was just last winter.
Heinz Simonitsch, co-founder of the village in Barret Town, and Johann Denk, director of SOS Children's Villages Jamaica, looked deeply moved by the death of the man who wore black out of solidarity for the unfortunate and beaten-down. As Simonitsch says, "He was always keen about the development of the village and what happened to the children here. He was genuinely interested in them."
"The Man in Black", who brought about a country music revolution, breaking down musical boundaries with his distinctive and direct voice, also dedicated his single "The Ballad of Annie Palmer/The Worried Man" to "his" SOS Children's Village, donating all the profits.
Cash also had links with SOS Children's Villages in Germany. When the musician was stationed as a young GI in Germany, he followed closely as SOS Children's Village Ammersee was built in Diessen. He first met children and mothers personally in Munich when on a European tour in 1994. A second meeting followed in 1997 in Munich when a small delegation from Diessen presented Johnny Cash with the book "Africa's Children" before he went on stage.
"We have been friends and neighbours," said Johann Denk. "Children always need idols, and Johnny Cash is one of them."