The History Of: Johnny Cash

author: Matt Montoya date: 05/20/2006 category: the history of
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Johnny Cash was born in Kingsland, Arkansas, and raised in Dyess, Arkansas. When he was five, he began to work in cotton fields. His family had struggles during the great depression, which later inspired many of his songs. It is said that Cash was 25% Cherokee, and he felt a great sympathy towards native-americans, which was shown on his album, Bitter Tears. He had a very close relationship to his brother, Jack. In 1944, he was pulled into a table saw where he worked, and it cut him almost into two pieces. After a week of pain, he died. Johnny Cash has said that he always felt horrible guilt over his brother's death. His mother asked Jack to skip work, and go fishing with his brother, but Jack went to work because his family needed the money. It was said that Jack had a vision of Heaven and angels right before he died on his deathbed. Later in his life, Cash joined the air force. When he completed his service, he married Vivian Liberto. They had four children together. One was singer, Roseanne Cash. Around 1955, Cash decided to go to Sun Records. He met with Sam Phillips (most notable for discovering Rock & Roll singer, Elvis). Cash played some gospel songs, but Phillips was unimpressed. He told Cash to "Go home and sin, then come back with a song I can sell." Cash won over Phillips with his "Johnny Cash" sound about songs with a blues feel in the lyrics. One of his first recordings is "Cry Cry Cry", which was released in 1955. His next record, Folsom Prison Blues hit #5 and his first huge hit single, "I Walk The Line" hit #1. Cash later decided to leave Sun Records and switch to Columbia Records. Around the late 50s and early 60s, Cash's relationship with his wife started to fail, due to his constant touring and he was simply being unfaithful. In the early 60s, Cash's career was getting bigger and bigger. He was drinking more and became severely addicted to amphetamines and barbiturates. He lived with Waylon Jennings, also a drug addict, for a brief time of his life. He began to have erratic behavior, and his addiction grew worse and worse, but his friends just ignored the signs. It was around this time where he hade his next huge hit, "Ring Of Fire", written by June Carter and Merle Kilgor. He did the song with mariachi trumpets, giving it a somewhat new sound. June Carter, who was currently having an affair with her husband with Cash, wrote the song from the feelings of what she was going through. Not only was Cash married, but his dependency on drugs and alcohol also inspired June to write the song. Cash never served a prison sentence, he just was sent to jail for one night, seven times under misdemeanors. In 1965, Cash was arrested in El Paso, Texas, for smuggling over 1,000 pills of amphetamines in his guitar case. Because they were prescription pills and weren't illegal, he got a suspended sentence. In the next year, he was arrested in Mississippi for trespassing on private property to pick flowers, which led to his song, "Starkville City Jail". In the mid-60s, he released concept albums like "Bitter Tears", and his drug addiction had reached its worst point, which led to the divorce of his wife. Around the late 60s, June Carter helped Johnny Cash get off his drug addiction. After he was clean, he did a concert in London, Ontario, where he proposed to June on-stage, and June said "yes". In that year, Cash released his critically acclaimed huge live album, Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison. The album skyrocketed the charts, and made Cash even bigger than what he was. In 1969, he released another live album, Johnny Cash At San Quentin. The album was just as big a success as Folsom, and got the same results from critics. On the album, it had "Folsom Prison Blues", with a Hendrix-ish solo, and one of the biggest commercial successes of Cash's life, "A Boy Named Sue", written by the extremely talented Shel Silverstein. Johnny Cash was a huge fan of legendary folk, rock, country, and blues singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan. Cash called him "the greatest songwriter" at a concert, and did a duet with him on Dylan's country album, Nashville Skyline. There are many tapes of their duets, including "I Walk The Line". In the 70s, Cash grew his image of "The Man In Black", showing up to all his concerts wearing black. In the mid-70s, as his music and popularity were declining, he released his autobiography, Man In Black, which sold over a million copies. He had television appearances, including him doing a voice cameo for The Simpsons. Cash had a friendly relationship with all the presidents starting with Nixon. He did not have a good relationship with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. When asked what he thought of Bush, he said "I didn't vote for Mr. Bush, let's just leave it at that". In 1983, Cash was kicked in the stomach by an ostrich he kept on hid farm. The incident sent him into a relapse in an addiction to painkillers. In 1986, during his recovery, he met Ozzy Osbourne. Cash's son was a fan of the singer, and Cash became friends with Ozzy. In 1997, Johnny Cash was diagnosed with Shy-Drager Syndrome. He had to cancel his touring. In 98, he was hospitalized for pneumonia. Later in his life, he had a hit with an unexpected cover of The Nine Inch Nails "Hurt". He spent the next years of his life making some recordings, and living peacefully. In 2005, a movie was made about the life of Johnny Cash called Walk The Line. Joaquin Phoenix played Cash, and Reese Witherspoon played June Carter. According to Cash's son, John Carter Cash, the movie accurately displays his life. The movie surprisingly doesn't make up alot of things for the "Hollywood" effect, mainly because Cash's life was Hollywood enough. For example, he really did propose to June Carter on-stage, he really was arrested in El Paso, and Sam Phillips did not like Johnny Cash's music at first, but Cash won him over. There are, however, some minor differences. In the movie, Cash opens up at Folsom Prison with "Folsom Prison Blues", but in the movie, he opened with "Cocaine Blues", which he really sang later in the album. Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter, were married until her death, May 13, 2003. Cash followed in September 12th of that year. From the Rock & Roll sound of the 50s, to his Country/Blues style in the 60s and 70s, Johnny Cash is known as one of the greatest people in music ever to live. He inspirations of Gospel and Country, led to him inspiring almost every country musician known to man, and even some Rock artists, and his music will live forever.
More Matt Montoya columns:
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