“...Two million dollars... Last year, Johnny Cash made twice that much, singin’ about hard times.” -Bob Hope
brand of country music fused with blues, rock, gospel and folk invoked the raw character of working rural Americans shaped by the land, broken dreams and death itself. Perhaps it’s precisely what is missing from popular music today. Ironically, Cash’s voice and music resonate with contemporary young music fans much as they did during the latter part of the 20th Century.
Born J.R. Cash on February 26, 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas, “John” Cash began using the name “Johnny” only after beginning a music career in Memphis, Tennessee as a recording artist for Sam Phillips’ Sun label in 1954. Just when Elvis Presley was beginning his music career there, Cash began working with a backing group called the Tennessee Two, playing gospel and later transitioning to the trendy new ‘rockabilly’ sound, a blend of “hillbilly” rock and roll that incorporated rhythm and blues.
During this period Cash also began touring with June Carter of the famed Carter Family country act. The two would eventually be married in 1968.
With and without June, he scored more chart successes but concurrently developed severe issues with drugs and alcohol.
Despite a troubled personal life that saw frequent addiction, abuse and run-ins with the law, Cash continually found renewal and redemption in the Almighty. He regularly performed at Billy Graham’s ‘Crusades’ and wrote a Christian novel and a screenplay which he produced on the life of Jesus in addition to his two autobiographies written in 1975 and 1997.
Sadly, Johnny Cash passed away on September 12, 2003, four months after June’s passing. His musical legacy is difficult to explicate yet easily noticeable in the multitudes of musicians he played with and influenced.