Even if you only know a couple songs of his or even just heard Ring of Fire on the radio before, Johnny Cash ( February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003) is one of the most well known musicians of contemporary history.
The picture below was taken as Cash waited behind the stage at Folsom Prison to start the performance of his live album, “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.” Cash had a compassion for outlaws that not many celebrities, let alone people as whole, shared.
Johnny Cash was a man who touched the hearts of many with his lyrics and voice. Many blue collar workers found solace in Cash’s hard and steady style which was much like their own life experiences. When he covered the song “Hurt” from the band “Nine Inch Nails”, singer-songwriter Trent Reznor said that it brought him near to tears to hear it.
But Cash wasn’t only a musician in his life, many are unaware that he also served in the Air Force during the Cold War and was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant. Cash was actually the first radio operator to tap into the news of Josef Stalin’s death. The military is where he also started his first band, “The Landsberg Barbarians”.
Cash lived a hard life throughout his career. He fell in hard with liquor and amphetamines to keep up with the stressful pace of life on tour. He was arrested time and time again on drug and alcohol related charges and gained notoriety as an outlaw of sorts. Cash finally reduced his wild lifestyle after an unsuccessful suicide attempt within Nickajack cave while under the influence of drugs and alcohol gave him the epiphany he needed to seek help.
Cash married twice in his life, first to Vivian Liberto in 1954 but heavy substance abuse led to their divorce in 1966, and second to June Carter in 1968 until her death in 2003, just four months before his own death. He had five biological children and two stepdaughters from his second wife, all of whom except one are still alive to this day.
Unfortunately Cash’s partying, roving past caught up to him in his later years. He had many health issues including pneumonia and Multiple System Atrophy. The official cause of death for Johnny Cash was complications from diabetes, but many say that Cash died of a broken heart after losing his beloved wife months before. Cash was 71. Despite his death, Johnny Cash’s music and his philosophy of life continues to inspire people the world over.
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