Johnny Cash died aged seventy-one on 12th September 2003 from complications of diabetes while hospitalized at Baptist Hospital in Nashville,Tennessee, U.S.A. It was less than four months after his wife's death. It was suggested that Johnny's health worsened due to a broken heart over June's death. He was buried next to his wife in Hendersonville Memory Gardens near his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
Johnny Cash was born on February 26th 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas, U.S.A. to Ray Cash and Carrie Cloveree (née Rivers; He was one of seven children, who were in birth order: Roy, Margaret Louise, Jack, J. R., Reba, Joanne, and Tommy (who also became a successful country artist). He was primarily of English and Scottish descent and as an adult traced his surname to 11th-century Fife after meeting with the then-laird of Falkland, Major Michael Crichton-Stuart. Cash Loch and other locations in Fife bear the name of his family.
At birth Johnny Cash was named J. R. Cash. When enlisted in the United States Air Force, he was not permitted to use initials as a first name ] so he changed his name to John R. Cash. In 1955, when signing with Sun Records, he took Johnny Cash as his stage name.
In March 1935, when Johnny was three years old, the family settled in Dyess, Arkansas. He started working in cotton fields at the age of five, singing along with his family while working. The family farm was flooded on at least two occasions, which later inspired him to write the song "Five Feet High and Rising". His family's economic and personal struggles during the Great Depression inspired many of his songs, especially those about other people facing similar difficulties.
Johnny Cash was very close to his older brother, Jack. In May 1944, Jack was pulled into a whirling head saw in the mill where he worked and was almost cut in two. He suffered for over a week before he died on May 20, 1944, at the age of fifteen. Johnny Cash often spoke of the horrible guilt he felt over this incident. According to Johnny Cash: The Autobiography, his father was away that morning, but he and his mother, and Jack himself, all had premonitions or a sense of foreboding about that day, causing his mother to urge Jack to skip work and go fishing with his brother. Jack insisted on working, as the family needed the money. On his deathbed, Jack said he had visions of Heaven and angels. Decades later, Johnny Cash spoke of looking forward to meeting his brother in Heaven.
Johnny Cash's early memories were dominated by gospel music and radio. Taught guitar by his mother and a childhood friend, Johnny Cash began playing and writing songs at the age of twelve. When Johnny was young, he had a high tenor voice, before becoming a bass-baritone. In high school, he sang on a local radio station; decades later he released an album of traditional gospel songs, called My Mother's Hymn Book. He was also significantly influenced by traditional Irish music that he heard performed weekly by Dennis Day on the Jack Benny radio program. Johnny Cash enlisted in the United States Air Force on July 7, 1950. After basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and technical training at Brooks Air Force Base, both in San Antonio, Texas, Johnny Cash was assigned to the 12th Radio Squadron Mobile of the U.S. Air Force Security Service at Landsberg, Germany as a Morse Code operator intercepting Soviet Army transmissions. It was there he created his first band, named "The Landsberg Barbarians". He was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant on July 3rd 1954, and returned to Texas. During his military service, he acquired a distinctive scar on the right side of his jaw as a result of surgery to remove a cyst.
On July 18th 1951, while in Air Force training, Johnny Cash met seventeen year old Vivian Liberto at a roller skating rink in her native San Antonio. They dated for three weeks until Johnny Cash was deployed to Germany for a three-year tour. During that time, the couple exchanged hundreds of pages of love letters. On August 7, 1954, one month after his discharge, they were married at St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in San Antonio. The ceremony was performed by her uncle, Father Vincent Liberto. They had four daughters: Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy, and Tara. Liberto stated that Johnny Cash's drug and alcohol abuse, as well as constant touring, affairs with other women, and his close relationship with June Carter led her to file for divorce in 1966.
Johnny Cash met June Carter, of the famed Carter Family while on tour and became infatuated, as did she. In 1968, thirteen years after they first met backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, Johnny Cash proposed to June, during a live performance in London, Ontario. The couple married on March 1st, 1968, in Franklin, Kentucky, USA. They had one child together, John Carter Cash, born March 3rd 1970. Johnny Cash and Carter continued to work, raise their children, create music, and tour together for thirty-five years until June's death in May 2003. Throughout their marriage June attempted to keep Johnny Cash off of amphetamines, often taking his drugs and flushing them down the toilet. June remained with Johnny throughout multiple rehab visits and years of drug abuse. After June's passing, Johnny Cash believed that his only reason for living was his music. Johnny Cash died four months later.
As his career was taking off in the late 1950s, Johnny Cash started drinking heavily and became addicted to amphetamines and barbiturates. For a brief time, he shared an apartment in Nashville with Waylon Jennings, who was heavily addicted to amphetamines. Johnny Cash used the uppers to stay awake during tours. Friends joked about his "nervousness" and erratic behavior, many ignoring the warning signs of his worsening drug addiction.
Although he was in many ways spiraling out of control, Johnny Cash's frenetic creativity was still delivering hits. His rendition of "Ring of Fire" was a crossover hit, reaching No. 1 on the country charts and entering the Top 20 on the pop charts. It was originally performed by June's sister, but the signature mariachi-style horn arrangement was provided by Johnny Cash, who said that it had come to him in a dream. Vivian Liberto claimed a different version of the origins of "Ring of Fire." In her book, I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny, Liberto states that Johnny Cash gave Carter the credit for monetary reasons.
In June 1965, Johnny Cash's camper caught fire during a fishing trip with his nephew Damon Fielder in Los Padres National Forest in California, triggering a forest fire that burnt several hundred acres and nearly killed him. Johnny Cash's Cash claimed that the fire was caused by sparks from a defective exhaust system on his camper. When the judge asked Johnny Cash why he did it, Johnny said, "I didn't do it, my truck did, and it's dead, so you can't question it." The fire destroyed 508 acres (206 ha), burning the foliage off three mountains and driving off forty-nine of the refuge's 53 endangered condors. Johnny Cash was unrepentant and claimed, "I don't care about your damn yellow buzzards." The federal government sued him and was awarded $125,172. Johnny Cash eventually settled the case and paid $82,001. He said he was the only person ever sued by the government for starting a forest fire.
Although Johnny Cash carefully cultivated a romantic outlaw image, he never served a prison sentence. Despite landing in jail seven times for misdemeanors, each stay lasted only a single night. His most infamous run-in with the law occurred while on tour in 1965, when he was arrested October 4th by a narcotics squad in El Paso, Texas. The officers suspected he was smuggling heroin from Mexico, but found instead 688 Dexedrine capsules (amphetamines) and 475 Equanil (sedatives or tranquilizers) tablets that the singer had hidden inside his guitar case. Because the pills were prescription drugs rather than illegal narcotics, he received a suspended sentence.
Johnny Cash had also been arrested on May 11th, 1965, in Starkville, Mississippi, for trespassing late at night onto private property to pick flowers. This incident gave the spark for the song "Starkville City Jail", which he discussed on his live 'At San Quentin' album.) In the mid-1960s, Johnny Cash released a number of concept albums, including Sings the Ballads of the True West (1965), and Bitter Tears (1964), with songs highlighting the plight of the Native Americans. His drug addiction was at its worst at this point, and his destructive behavior led to a divorce from his first wife and canceled performances. Nonetheless, he continued to find success and in 1967, Johnny Cash's duet with June Carter, "Jackson," won a Grammy Award.
Johnny Cash's final arrest was in 1967 in Walker County, Georgia, after being involved in a car accident while carrying a bag of prescription pills. Johnny attempted to bribe a local deputy, who turned the money down; Johnny Cash then spent the night in a LaFayette, Georgia, jail. The singer was released after a long talk with Sheriff Ralph Jones, who warned him of his dangerous behavior and wasted potential. Johnny Cash credited that experience for saving his life, and he later came back to LaFayette to play a benefit concert that attracted 12,000 people (the city population was less than 9,000 at the time) and raised $75,000 for the high school. Reflecting on his past in a 1997 interview, Johnny Cash noted: "I was taking the pills for awhile, and then the pills started taking me."
Johnny Cash curtailed his use of drugs for several years in 1968, after a spiritual epiphany in the Nickajack Cave, when he attempted to commit suicide while under the heavy influence of drugs. He descended deeper into the cave, trying to lose himself and "just die," when he passed out on the floor. He reported being exhausted and feeling at the end of his rope when he felt God's presence in his heart and managed to struggle out of the cave (despite the exhaustion) by following a faint light and slight breeze. To him, it was his own rebirth. June, Maybelle, and Ezra Carter moved into Johnny Cash's mansion for a month to help him conquer his addiction. Johnny proposed onstage to June at a concert at the London Gardens in London, Ontario, Canada, on February 22nd 1968; the couple married a week later in Franklin, Kentucky. She had agreed to marry Cash after he had "cleaned up."
Johnny Cash rediscovered his Christian faith, taking an "altar call" in Evangel Temple, a small church in the Nashville area, pastored by Reverend Jimmie Rodgers Snow, son of country music legend Hank Snow. According to longtime friend Marshall Grant, Johnny Cash's 1968 rebirth experience did not result in his completely stopping use of amphetamines. However, beginning in 1970, Johnny Cash ended all drug use for a period of seven years. Grant claims that the birth of Johnny Cash's son, John Carter Cash inspired Johnny to end his dependence. Johnny Cash began using amphetamines again in 1977. By 1983, he was once again addicted and entered the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage, California for rehabilitation. Johnny managed to stay off drugs for several years, but by 1989, he was dependent again and entered Nashville's Cumberland Heights Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center. In 1992, he entered the Loma Linda Behavioral Medicine Center in Loma Linda, California, for his final rehabilitatin.
Johnny Cash began performing concerts at prisons starting in the late 1950s. He played his first famous prison concert on January 1st 1958, at San Quentin State Prison. These performances led to a pair of highly successful live albums, 'Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison' (1968) and 'Johnny Cash at San Quentin (1969)'. Both live albums reached number 1 on Billboard country album chart and the latter crossed over to reach the top of the Billboard pop album chart. In 1969 Johnny Cash became an international hit when he eclipsed even the Beatles by selling 6.5 million albums. In comparison, the prison concerts were much more successful than his later live albums such as Strawberry Cake recorded in London and Live at Madison Square Garden, which peaked at number 33 and number 39 on the album charts respectively.
The Folsom Prison record was introduced by a rendition of his "Folsom Prison Blues," while the San Quentin record included the crossover hit single "A Boy Named Sue," a Shel Silverstein-penned novelty song that reached Number 1 on the country charts and number 2 on the U.S. Top Ten pop charts. The AM versions of the latter contained profanities which were edited out. The modern CD versions are unedited and thus also longer than the original vinyl albums, though they do retain the audience reaction overdubs of the originals.
Johnny Cash performed at the Österåker Prison in Sweden in 1972. The live album På Österåker ("At Österåker") was released in 1973. "San Quentin" was recorded with Johnny Cash replacing "San Quentin" with "Österåker". In 1976, a further prison concert, this time at Tennessee Prison, was videotaped for TV broadcast and received a belated CD release after Johnny Cash's death as 'A Concert Behind Prison Walls'
In June 2005, Johnny Cash's lakeside home on Caudill Drive in Hendersonville was put up for sale by his estate. In January 2006, the house was sold to Bee Gees vocalist Barry Gibb and wife Linda, and titled to their Florida limited liability company for $2.3 million. The listing agent was Johnny Cash's younger brother, Tommy. On April 10th 2007, during a major restoration of the property by the new owner, Johnny Cash's former home was accidentally destroyed in a spontaneous combustion-ignited fire caused by workers using linseed oil products.
One of Johnny Cash's final collaborations with producer Rick Rubin, 'American V: A Hundred Highways' was released posthumously on July 4th 2006. The album debuted in the number 1 position on the Billboard Top 200 album chart for the week ending July 22nd 2006. On February 23rd 2010, three days before what would have been Johnny Cash's 78th birthday, the Cash Family, Rick Rubin, and Lost Highway Records released his second posthumous record, titled 'American VI: Ain't No Grave'.
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song: 'Long Black Veil' by Johnny Cash