It’s been almost two months since John Ray Cash died at 71 of complications from diabetes and a hard-lived life.

Tears and tributes have flowed since then from all corners of the music world. Cash was more than country, more than rockabilly, more than a balladeer and more than the icon the VH1 crowd now makes of him.

We try to keep a local focus on music here at The Independent and wouldn’t ordinarily devote an issue to a musician from outside the area. But Cash is different. Different because he’s had such a big impact on the lives and songs of people who make music around here.

National publications–music and otherwise–have devoted a lot of space to who he was and how he lived, and no doubt there will be plenty more copy dedicated to remembrances.

Instead of presenting our extended obituary, we asked local musicians John Howie, Dexter Romweber, Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell to help us understand Cash’s influence as a musician and a man. They were free to write what they wanted, and some of the similarities of the things they came up with are telling. Each, in a way, wrote about family, about faith, about love and hardship, and about Cash’s ability to speak beyond the song and directly to the listener. In addition to the essays, veteran music writer Rick Cornell spreads out a road map of Cash’s amazing life and travels.

Since no shrine is complete without images, artists Phil Blank and Casey Burns, both lifelong fans of Cash, spent the last month working on portraits for this issue. Their works, suitable for framing, underline the mythic qualities that were there in life and will surely grow in death.

This is our shrine, offered up with respect, sadness, and deep appreciation. His voice is silent now, but you can still hear the echoes. The circle remains unbroken.

Missing him already

by Caitlin Cary

‘He chose to rise above it’

by Dexter Romweber

Johnny, Dad and me

by John Howie Jr.

Amazing Grace

by Thad Cockrell

‘A true American giant’

by Rick Cornell