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In 1968, at the height of the youthful liberation, color, and bellowing electric vanity of the ’60s, the oldest 36-year-old in music history, wearing black, walked into a state penitentiary in Folsom, Calif., to play country songs. The result is one of the most celebrated live albums of all time. And to think Johnny Cash practically had to kidnap execs from his label and drag them to Folsom to record the damn thing. Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, produced and directed by Bestor Cram, narrates the events surrounding the concert that the suits considered a bad business decision. The set list bespeaks the contradictions of Cash’s embattled soul: mischievous tales of proud defiance mixed with tender melodies about love and loneliness. The Folsom inmates prove a sympathetic audience, cheering as hard for the line “I shot a man in Reno just to see him die” as they do for “The door to the house of God is never locked.” And what better occasion to celebrate a great musician’s contradictions than his birthday?
THE FILM SHOWS AT 7 p.m.AT AFI SILVER THEATRE AND CULTURAL CENTER, 924 ELLSWORTH DR, SILVER SPRING. $6–$10. (301) 585-0716.