An Emotional Farewell for Johnny Cash

updated 09/16/2003 at 12:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/16/2003 3:44PM

Politicos and musical heavyweights filled the First Baptist Church near Nashville on Monday night as friends and family members bid farewell to country legend Johnny Cash with words and music, reports Reuters.

The "Man in Black," 71, died of pneumonia on Friday after suffering for years with diabetes and other maladies.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who called himself a childhood friend of Cash's, said when he spoke to Cash a few weeks ago the entertainer said he had visited the grave of his wife, June Carter Cash, and declared, "I'll be with you soon." (Carter, Cash's wife of 35 years, died after surgery in May.)

"He told me on the phone her death was 'the hardest pain I have ever felt.' He was ready," said Gore.

The service featured an open casket flanked by photos of Cash. Video screens showed film clips from his life.

Emmylou Harris sang "The Old Rugged Cross," Sheryl Crow delivered a musical meditation, and Franklin Graham (son of the Rev. Billy Graham) read a message from his ailing father, said Reuters.

Wearing a long black coat, which was Cash's trademark, an emotional Kris Kristofferson sang "For a Moment of Forever" and called Cash a "champion of the voiceless ... who was also something of a holy terror -- a sort of Abraham Lincoln on the wild side.

"Johnny represented the best of America, and we won't see his like again," Kristofferson said.

Others attending included entertainers George Jones, the Oak Ridge Boys, Travis Tritt, Hank Williams Jr., Earl Scruggs with son Randy, and Larry Gatlin.

Johnny's daughter, Rosanne Cash, called her father "the stuff of dreams and a living cornerstone of our lives."

Following a rendition of "Angel Band," the service concluded with the Fisk Jubilee Singers offering a hymn as mourners filed by the casket and the sound of crying echoed in the church.

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