Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash, sometimes known as 'The Man in Black' because of his charicteristic dark clothing and demeanor, was one of the most influential and well-known singers in the history of American music. Cash expanded the realm of country music through his experiments on the fringes of the genre, while at the same time remaining its most well known icon.

J.R. Cash was born the son of a poor cotton farmer in Arkansas in 1932. Before long, he was writing songs and playing the guitar, and by the time he was in high school he was singing on a local radio station. Eventually Cash visited the office of Sun Records in hopes of winning a record contract, and his first two songs were released in 1955 with reasonable success. "Folsom Prison Blues," Cash's next album, reached the Country Top 5, and before long he had outgrown his first label and moved on to Columbia Records. At the same time that his career was taking off, however, he was falling into a worsening drug habit. But this did not stop him from delivering huge hits including "Ring of Fire," one of his most famous songs.

In 1968 Cash finally decided to deal with his drug problem. He locked himself in his house and began the process of recovery, helped by friends and his soon to be wife June Carter. By this time Cash had defined his public image as the 'Man in Black'. In the coming decades Cash's popularity on the charts declined, although he continued to have successful tours throughout America. The 1990's saw a rejuvenation of his career, thanks to the innovative producer Rick Rubin. Cash died in 2003 of natural causes.

Over his long and tumultuous career, Johnny Cash established one of the most recognizable personas in country music, and left behind a body of work that proves that he was one of the century's most important musicians.

-Cash created a persona for himself as a romantic outlaw, and although he never served a prison sentence, his sometimes wild behavior landed him in jail seven times, all for one night.

- After his audition for producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records, Phillips reportedly told him to "go home and sin, then come back with a song I can sell." Eventually he either won Phillips over or took his advice, because he got his first two songs, "Hey Porter" and "Cry Cry Cry," recorded and released in 1955.

- After his death, Cash was eulogized by many of today's most popular musicians, including Bob Dylan, Bono of U2, and Bruce Springsteen, all of whom name him as one of their major influences and inspirations. In Springsteens words, "Cash took the social consciousness of folk music, the gravity and humor of country music and the rebellion of rock 'n' roll, and told all us young guys that not only was it all right to tear up those lines and boundaries, but it was important." Bono said simply, "Everyone knows he is a sissy compared to Johnny Cash."

-Long after successfully doing away with his drug habit, Cash relapsed into addiction when a serious stomach injury (sustained in a fight with an ostrich at his exotic animal park) led him to abuse painkillers.

- Johnny Cash was born J.R. Cash. He was known only by these initials until he enlisted in the Air Force, which refused to take the initials J.R. as his name. The enlisting officers decided to call him John, and he has been known as Johnny Cash ever since.

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