Johnny Cash

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Cash, Johnny

Cash, Johnny, 1932–2003, American singer and songwriter, b. Kingsland, Ark. Born to a farm family, he went to Memphis in 1955 and recorded such hits as “I Walk the Line” (1956) and “Ring of Fire” (1963); the latter was written with his second wife, singer June Carter Cash of the Carter family country music dynasty. A major figure in country and western music, Cash lent a unique note of grace and gravitas to the genre with his all-black wardrobe redolent of rebellion and mourning, his rumbling bass-baritone voice, and the often tragic subject matter of his songs. The recording of his January, 1968, concert at Folsom Prison is one of his greatest and most profound albums, but one of his biggest hits was the humorous “A Boy Named Sue” (1969). Cash, who mingled elements of folk, country, and rock in his music, won 11 Grammies and was elected to both the Country Music and Rock and Roll halls of fame. After his death some 200 poems were found among his papers; a number of them were published as Forever Words: The Unknown Poems (2016).


See his autobiography (1997); H. George-Warren and M. Evans, Johnny Cash in His Own Words (2003), and M. Streissguth, ed., Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Reader (2002); V. Cash, I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny (2007); biographies by S. Dolan (1996), F. Moriarty (1998), G. Campbell (2003), S. Miller (2003), M. Streissguth (2006), and R. Hilburn (2013).

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Cash, Johnny

(1932–  ) musician; born in Kingsland, Ark. A singer, guitarist, and songwriter, he was born into a poor cotton farming family and became one of the greatest stars of country music. He began writing songs while serving in the air force between 1950–54, and worked as a door-to-door salesman before recording his first Sun Records hits, "I Walk the Line" and "Folsom Prison Blues," in 1956. He appeared regularly on the "Louisiana Hayride" and "Grand Ole Opry" radio broadcasts through the early 1960s. In 1960 he performed the first of many free jailhouse shows in San Quentin Prison. His collaborations with Bob Dylan in the late 1960s underscored his interest in the counter-culture's music. In 1968 he married June Carter, a member of the famous "first family" of country/folk music. In 1969, he began hosting his own television program, "The Johnny Cash Show." Cash also appeared in numerous dramatic roles in movies and television. In 1980, he was inducted into the Country Music Association Hall of Fame.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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