• Rob Hornberger

Save a life, wear a mask, Kingsville musician says in Johnny Cash cover video

Updated: Jan 19

2003 song Hurt rewritten with plea to keep others safe

Rick Stephenson sings his version of Johnny Cash's song Hurt in a video stressing the need to wear a mask during the pandemic. Kingsville's Harry Roettele, left, plays Stephenson's father in the video.

KINGSVILLE — The video of Johnny Cash singing Hurt is likely the saddest video ever recorded. Both Cash and his wife June Carter were ill at the time the video was shot and both died within a year of its release in 2003.

The heart-wrenching song — first recorded by Nine Inch Nails — deals with the transience of life and loss of dignity during the time just before death. It’s a sombre song.

Kingsville resident Rick Stephenson thought the song would be the perfect medium for a video of his own, one that would hammer home the need to wear masks to keep people, especially the elderly, safe during the pandemic.

The video also touches on the need to stay at home and self-isolate.

“What have I become, where are my friends, every trip I make could bring someone to their end,” Stephenson sings

“I could have it all, family and friends, everything I do spreads the pain onto them. If I could start again, I’d put an end to strife. I would wear a mask, I would save a life.”

Rick Stephenson and his wife, Cathy, at their Kingsville home. Cathy Stephenson filmed the video, which opens with a scene at Cedar Beach.

Stephenson’s wife Cathy filmed the video, which begins near Cedar Beach in Kingsville and ends at the home of friend Harry Roettele who plays Stephenson’s father in the video. In between there of clips of hospitals, crowded subways, overhead shots of a city, a woman wearing a mask, head resting on a table. Professionally executed and performed, the video took Stephenson’s son-in-law Chris Macdonald, an artist and painter, two weeks to edit and overdub.

Stephenson, a professional musician who started playing classical guitar two years ago, said he wasn’t intimated singing a version of one of Cash’s most iconic songs.

“I’ve performed for thousands of people and I felt comfortable playing the guitar and my voice has lowered over the years to sit comfortably in Johnny Cash’s range,” he said.

He said the Cash song was perfect for the feelings he wanted to express about mask wearing.

“I feel that if Johnny Cash was alive, he would have done something like this to show people how we can save a life and to convey to the people doing their part — staying and working from home, giving up family Christmas — that they are doing an amazing and important thing.”

A trombonist, Stephenson orchestrated, conducted and sang with a 17-piece band for more than two decades before retiring with his wife to Kingsville from Orillia.

He was also mentored early in his career by Canadian arranger-composer Ron Collier who received the Order of Canada in 2003.

Stephenson is a big fan of Frank Sinatra and the CD, From One Blue Eyes to Another, by Rick Stephenson and his Orchestra, can be heard on iTunes.



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