Born in Kingsland, Arkansas, to a family of sharecroppers, Cash was born into a family that knew to achieve your dreams, you had to fight for it. Once Cash was a young adult, he insisted in the Air Force, serving as a radio intercept operator. After his time serving, Cash jumped around from job to job until he broke into the music scene in the 1950s.
When the founder of Sun Records discovered Cash, his life would change. Sam Phillips signed Cash to Sun Records in 1955, and throughout his time at this label, Cash would record some of his most famous songs, like “I Walk The Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Johnny made his Grand Ole Opry debut just a year after breaking big through the scene. That night in the historic Opry House in 1956, Cash also met his future wife, creating two significant events, one on top of the other.
June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash became an unstoppable duo once they were wed 12 years later in 1968.
Cash parted ways with Sun Records in 1958. He moved to Columbia Records, where he would remain for a significant portion of his career. In 2012, The Complete Columbia Album Collection box set was released, highlighting all 59 albums cut during his 28 years with the label.
In 1969, the launch of The Johnny Cash Show would add another layer to Cash’s already impressive career. From fresh faces and skits the whole family could enjoy and powerful messaging, Cash captures an entire new audience that looked forward to listening to his booming voice throughout the show.
1980 posed another career high for Cash, who became the Country Music Hall of Fame’s youngest living inductee at 48. In the ’80s, the formation of The Highwaymen brought a whole new following to Cash as it would become one of the most iconic musical supergroups ever assembled (and ever will be assembled).
Waylon, Willie, Johnny, and Kris… you can’t get any better than those four.
In the late 1990s, Cash was diagnosed with Shy-Drager syndrome, which is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. While many artists would choose to retire at this point, Cash continued to put our music, including the incredible Rick Rubin-produced American Recordings, a 6-album series featuring a number of Johnny Cash originals as well as many iconic covers.
To this day, Johnny’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” is regarded as one of his most iconic recordings.
In 2003, just four months before his death, Cash lost June Carter, and dedicated his final performance to her:
From Cash’s highly acclaimed prison albums, his mementos on embodying the American spirit, his words of wisdom, his activism for prison reform and Native American injustice, and so much more, Johnny Cash was the embodiment of a true American outlaw.
With a wild streak that gave him credibility among the country music rebels early in his career, followed by the family man he became with June Carter, Johnny Cash was an artist anyone could love.