Johnny Cash Biography

(One of the Best-Selling Music Artists of All Time)

Birthday: February 26, 1932 (Pisces)

Born In: Kingsland, Arkansas, United States

Johnny Cash was one of the most prominent American singer-songwriters of the 20th century. Although he was known for his country music, his large gamut of work went on to influence genres like rock and roll, blues, folk, gospel and rockabilly. He is best-remembered for his deep, baritone voice and his meek demeanor, notwithstanding his fame and success which was rife. He earned the nickname, ‘The Man in Black’, because he would always wear dark clothing while performing live and sang songs that were based on ‘dark’ themes, echoing his troubled past and other themes of pathos, lust, oddity, misfortune and redemption. Some of his well-known works include, ‘I Walk the Line’, ‘Ring of Fire’, ‘Man in Black’, ‘Jackson’, ‘Hey, Porter’, ‘Rock Island Line’ and ‘A Boy Named Sue’. His typical trooping bass songs have influenced the likes of Waylon Jennings, Bono and Bob Dylan. He started his career by recording gospel music and ended it by doing covers for more modern artists such as ‘Nine Inch Nails’.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: John R. Cash

Died At Age: 71


Spouse/Ex-: June Carter Cash (m. 1968–2003), Vivian Liberto (m. 1954–1966)

father: Ray Cash

mother: Carrie Cloveree

siblings: Tommy Cash

children: John Carter Cash, Rossane cash

Born Country: United States

Quotes By Johnny Cash Musicians

Died on: September 12, 2003

place of death: Nashville, Tennessee, United States

Cause of Death: Diabetic Complications

Ancestry: British American

U.S. State: Arkansas

  • 1

    What is Johnny Cash's most famous song?

    "Ring of Fire" is widely considered Johnny Cash's most famous song, released in 1963 and becoming a major hit.

  • 2

    Did Johnny Cash serve in the military?

    Yes, Johnny Cash served in the United States Air Force before pursuing a career in music.

  • 3

    What inspired Johnny Cash's song "Folsom Prison Blues?"

    Johnny Cash was inspired to write "Folsom Prison Blues" after watching the movie "Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison."

  • 4

    Did Johnny Cash ever perform at a prison?

    Yes, Johnny Cash famously performed at several prisons during his career, including the iconic live album recorded at Folsom Prison in 1968.

  • 5

    What was Johnny Cash's connection to the famous Sun Records label?

    Johnny Cash was signed to Sun Records by label owner Sam Phillips in the 1950s, where he recorded some of his early hits like "I Walk the Line" and "Folsom Prison Blues."

Childhood & Early Life
Johnny R. Cash was the fourth of the seven children born to Carrie Cloveree and Ray Cash in Kingsland, Arkansas. When he was just three years old, the family shifted to Dyess, Arkansas.
From a very young age, he helped his family by working in cotton fields. He came from a poor family and ‘The Great Depression’ caused further financial troubles for the family. Many of these troubles would later be reflected in his songs.
Cash was extremely close to his elder brother Jack, who died after almost being cut into two when he was pulled into a rotating head saw in the mill, in 1944. His brother was only 15-years-old at the time. This depression added on to his woes in his childhood, which can also be seen in a number of his songs in later life.
He was mainly inspired by gospel and Irish music and began writing songs at the age of 12. It was around this time he learnt to play the guitar and was given a chance to perform in the local radio station.
In 1950, he enlisted in the United States Air Force, where he was allotted the job of a Morse Code Intercept Operator. During his time with the army, he and a few of his Air Force friends formed the ‘Landsberg Barbarians’, where he wrote the famous song, ‘Folsom Prison Blues’.
He was nobly discharged from service on July 3, 1954 as Staff Sergeant and he went back home to Texas.
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After his marriage, he worked for a brief period as an appliance salesman. He got together with a few mechanics and formed a tight music group called ‘Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two’. They mainly played a fusion of country and blues music.
They approached Sun Records studio to record their gospel music, but Sam Phillips, the record producer asked them to come up with non-gospel music because he believed that the market for gospel music was very ‘limited’.
He finally convinced Philips which resulted in the release of the songs, ‘Hey, Porter’ and ‘Cry! Cry! Cry!’ in 1955. Other hits followed including, ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and ‘So Doggone Lonesome’.
He tasted true fame with his song ‘I Walk The Line’, which became an instant success on music charts, in 1956. The following year, Cash became the first artist to record a ‘long-playing album’ and became one of the highest-selling artists with Sun Records.
In 1958, he signed a profitable deal with Columbia Records, where his single, ‘Don’t Take Your Guns to Town’ peaked at all major music charts and also entered the pop charts.
In the 60s, he starred in the ephemeral television series, ‘Rainbow Quest’ and was also seen in the movie, ‘Five minutes to Live’. Through the 60s, he took the country by storm with a fusillade of popular hits including, ‘Ring of Fire’ and ‘Understand Your Man’.
His career began to spiral downwards when he began to drink excessively and also started taking drugs.
Around this time, he also separated from his first wife. When he remarried, his life took an extraordinary U-turn in 1968, with the release of the live album, ‘Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison’.
In 1969, he hosted ‘The Johnny Cash Show’, a variety series on the ABC Network, which showcased contemporary musicians ranging from Bob Dylan to Kenny Rogers.
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By the 70s, he had cemented his image as ‘The Man in Black’ as he would frequently dress in black, wearing a long black knee-length coat. In 1971, he wrote a song, ‘Man in Black’ explaining his queer choice of clothing.
In the mid-70s, his popularity began to wane. In 1973, he released the double album, ‘The Gospel Road’ - the name was used in a Hollywood film of the same name.
In 1975, his autobiography, ‘Man in Black’ was published, which was the first of the two autobiographies he would write in his lifetime. Through the remainder part of the 70s, he appeared on television, hosting annual Christmas specials and also appeared in shows like ‘Columbo: Swan Song’, ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and ‘Dr.Quinn, Medicine Woman’.
In the 80s, he toured with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kirstofferson, recording three hit albums with the group. The first, titled, ‘Highwaymen’ was released in 1985. During this period, he also appeared in ‘The Pride of Jesse Hallam’ and the ‘Muppet Show’.
In 1986, he quit Columbia Records and reunited with Sun Studios in Memphis and created the album, ‘Class of 55’. The same year, he authored his only novel, ‘Man in White’.
The second album, ‘Highwaymen 2’ was released in 1990. Four years later, he recorded his album, ‘American Recordings’, which is largely considered one of his greatest works.
He concluded his group ‘Highwaymen’ series with the third and final album titled ‘Highwaymen- The Road Goes on Forever’, in 1995. The following year, he released the album, ‘Unchained’, which also went on to become one of his last hit albums.
In 1997, he wrote the second installment of his autobiography series titled, ‘Cash: The Autobiography’, which covered details of his life that were not mentioned in the former publication.
In 2000, he released ‘American III: Solitary Man’. One of his more somber albums ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’, was released two years later and received popular acclaim.
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In the last stage of his career, Jihnny Cash covered songs by several late 20th-century rock artists; some of the notable songs among them include "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails and "Rusty Cage" by Soundgarden.
Major Works
In 1973, he released ‘The Gospel Road’ under Columbia Records. The album was ranked one of the best 12 Country albums of the year and went on to spawn a film of the same name which Cash provided the narration to and the soundtrack.
‘American Recordings’ released in 1994, is believed to be one of his greatest albums till date. It is included in the list of the ‘500 greatest albums of all time’ by Rolling Stone magazine. The album was hailed by critics as one of his best works since the 60s. It also went on to win a Grammy Award for ‘Best Contemporary Folk Album’ at the Grammy Awards ceremony the same year.
Awards & Achievements
He won 19 Grammy Awards, including posthumous awards.
In 1969, he was presented the Country Music Association Award for ‘Entertainer of the Year’.
He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, in 1980.
He won the Academy of Country Music Award for ‘Single of the Year’ for ‘Highwayman’, in 1985.
In 1988, he was presented the Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award.
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In 1992, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1999, he received the ‘Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award’.
In 2003, he won the Americana Music Association Award for ‘Album of the Year’ for ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’.
In 2011, he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, posthumously.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Vivian Liberto in 1954 and they had four daughters - Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy and Tara.
He had a number of affairs with women and became a chronic alcoholic and a drug addict which finally ended his marriage with his first wife. He filed for divorce in 1966.
He married June Carter on March 1, 1968 and they had a son together; John Carter Cash.
He was diagnosed with neurodegenerative disease Shy-Drager syndrome in his final years. In 1998, he was even hospitalized for severe pneumonia which affected his lungs.
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He passed away at the age of 73 due to problems arising from diabetes. His conditioned worsened towards the end because he was shattered after his wife’s death, who died four months before him. He was interred next to her in Hendersonville.
His image as a popular alternative country icon influenced a number of artists even after his death including Chris Isaak, Bob Dylan, Wyclef Jean, Willie Nelson and Dom DeLuise.
There is a street in Hendersonville, Tennessee, named after him. The Johnny Cash Museum is also located in the same place.
In 2007, the Johnny Cash Flower Pickin’ Festival took place in Starkville.
He has also been portrayed in a number of films including ‘I Still Miss Someone’ and ‘Walk the Line’.
In 2013, a limited edition Forever stamp was released in his honor, depicting a picture of him.
Facts About Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was known for his unique fashion sense, often seen wearing all-black attire which earned him the nickname "The Man in Black."

Cash was a talented artist beyond music, showing his passion for painting and writing poetry throughout his life.

He had a deep love for nature and animals, owning various exotic pets including an ostrich named Waldo.

Cash was a skilled and avid cook, known for his chili recipe which he often cooked for friends and family.

Despite his tough exterior, Cash had a tender heart and was known for his generosity towards those in need, often silently helping others in the music industry and beyond.


Grammy Awards
2008 Best Short Form Music Video Johnny Cash: God's Gonna Cut You Down (2006)
2006 Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package Winner
2004 Best Short Form Music Video Winner
2003 Best Male Country Vocal Performance Winner
2001 Best Male Country Vocal Performance Winner
1999 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
1998 Best Country Album Winner
1995 Best Contemporary Folk Album Winner
1992 Legend Award Winner
1987 Best Spoken Word or Non-musical Recording Winner
1971 Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group Winner
1970 Best Country Song Winner
1970 Best Country Vocal Performance, Male Winner
1970 Best Album Notes Winner
1969 Best Album Notes Winner
1969 Best Country Vocal Performance, Male Winner
1968 Best Country & Western Performance Duet, Trio or Group (Vocal or Instrumental) Winner
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