Part of the fun when watching Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music, a 39-year-old documentary unearthed and presented tonight on the PBS series P.O.V. (10 p.m. ET; check local listings) is being surprised, if not shocked, by what comes next. So in raving about this unburied TV treasure, I don’t want to reveal too much about its contents.
But figuring you might need a few teasers to be persuaded to tune in, here goes:
At one point, Cash listens politely as an earnest young man, the friend of a friend, plays guitar and sings one his own compositions. Who is this kid? Who knows? Then, almost immediately, the documentary cuts to Cash doing a duet with another earnest young man, who’s singing one of his compositions.
That young man is easier to recognize. He’s Bob Dylan, and their vocal duet on “One Too Many Mornings” is a joy. Listening to it on playback, Cash laughs out loud – and that enjoyment is infectious.
Filmmaker Robert Elfstrom, in this 1969 film, catches Cash at his crossover early best, and follows the maverick musician as he gives politically charged concerts at prisons and Indian reservations, while touring his own childhood home and singing with and without his new bride, June Carter Cash. Most songs are presented uncut, which makes them even more of a treasure.
For these and other treats, including Carl Perkins and the crow, you’ll just have to see for yourself.