- Cash, John R.
▪ 2004“Johnny”American singer-songwriter (b. Feb. 26, 1932, Kingsland, Ark.—d. Sept. 12, 2003, Nashville, Tenn.), was a country-and-western legend whose genre-hopping music influenced folk and rock and whose craggy baritone, simple poetics, hard-won integrity, and advocacy of the dispossessed transformed him into an American icon. Cash was the son of impoverished farmers; he grew up in Mississippi and, after high school and a stint in a Detroit factory, enlisted in the air force, where he learned to play the guitar. After his military service, he married Vivian Liberto, moved to Memphis, Tenn., and worked as an appliance salesman while pursuing music. Recording for the Sun label, Cash and the Tennessee Two (Marshall Grant and Luther Perkins) scored a string of hits, including “Folsom Prison Blues” (1955) and “I Walk the Line” (1956). Moving to Columbia Records, Cash topped the country chart in 1963 with “Ring of Fire,” co-written for him by June Carter (see Cash, June Carter ), of the legendary musical Carter Family, who became his second wife (1968). Cash eschewed the glittery fashions typical of country performers to become the “man in black,” symbolic of his intolerance of injustice. A dynamic live performer who began his shows with the simple introduction “Hello, I'm Johnny Cash,” he had hits with the albums Live at Folsom Prison (1968) and Johnny Cash at San Quentin (1969). In the late 1960s and '70s he hosted a television show, collaborated with Bob Dylan, and rivaled the Beatles in record sales. Among his hits were “A Boy Named Sue” (1969) and “One Piece at a Time” (1976). Cash's popularity waned in the late '70s and '80s, but the series of critically acclaimed albums he made with producer Ric Rubin, beginning with American Recordings (1994), introduced a new generation to his music. The winner of 11 Grammy Awards, he was a member of both the Rock and Roll and Country Music halls of fame. Having survived earlier battles with alcohol and drugs, he died of complications from diabetes.
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