Wednesday, June 3, 1970

Musical Artist - Cash, Johnny

Johnny Cash was an American singer and songwriter best known as a country artist, but whose influence was so wide-ranging that he has been inducted into the Country Music, Gospel Music, and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. Born in Arkansas and given the name J.R., Cash didn't take the name "John" until he enlisted in the Air Force when the service told him he could not use initials for a first name. After a tour of duty that included being the first U.S. service person to learn of Stalin's death, Cash married Vivian Liberto and started a family.

By 1955, Cash had signed a record contract and began releasing a string of country hits starting with Cry! Cry! Cry! and continuing with hits such as Folsom Prison Blues, I Walk the Line, Ring of Fire, Don't Take Your Guns to Town, and A Boy Named Sue. Cash's constant touring in support of his music career and addiction to drugs and alcohol proved hard on his marriage, and in 1966 Liberto filed for divorce. Cash had toured with the Carter Family, and in 1966 he married June Carter two weeks after proposing to her on stage. Their duet Jackson was one of Cash's biggest hits, and became one of his signature performances.

Between 1969 and 1971 Cash hosted a television show title The Johnny Cash Show on which he booked numerous musical guests, establishing a pattern of booking mainstream artists as well as country singers. He had as guests, such varied performers as Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, James Taylor, Ray Charles, Roger Miller, Roy Orbison, Derek and the Dominos, Bob Dylan, and Kris Kristofferson. In 1971, Cash wrote a musical explanation of his favored style of dressing all in black, releasing the song Man in Black.

Cash battled addiction to amphetamines for much of his life, and was in and out of rehab multiple times. June Carter remained his constant companion through his struggles. Cash's late career was not nearly as productive as his early years, although he did team up with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson in the 1980s after which the quartet released three well-received albums as the Highwaymen. In 1996 he worked with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to record the Grammy-winning album Unchained. June Carter Cash died in 2003, telling Johnny to keep making music. Cash recorded sixty songs over the next four months before he also died.

One quip I have heard is that Cash may not be your favorite musician, but he's your favorite band's favorite musician. Cash has a website named Johnny (as a warning, note that the website has an autoplayed recording). An account dedicated to Cash can also be found on Twitter.

Musical Monday Selections:

02/02/17: Man in Black

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