September 12, 2023, marks the 20th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s passing. The Country singer left behind an impressive legacy. His famous hits include Walk The Line, Ring of Fire and Man in Black.
Johnny Cash was the legend of Country music. He started his career in 1954 with Gospel music. He then ventured into other musical genres, starting with Country music. He had moved to Memphis, Tennessee, with his first wife, Vivian. He was a musical chameleon. His music career took off in the late 50s with his version of Ring of Fire. Johnny Cash’s first album was Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar. That was also the moment when the outlaw image came to be – he got the nickname “The Undertaker” because he tended to wear black often. At the same time, he did prison concerts, leading to several successful live albums: Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison and Johnny Cash at San Quentin.
In 1968, Johnny Cash married his second wife, June Carter, with whom he sang many duets throughout his career. Some duets include Wildwood Flower, I Walk The Line and My Dixie Darling. Their first one was Jackson, which won a Grammy award.
Johnny Cash was also well-known for his activism, especially for Native Americans. He recorded an album honouring the cause, Bitter Tears: Ballads of The American Indian. It shared stories about the oppression of Indigenous peoples.
On television, Johnny Cash had his show The Johnny Cash Show (June 1969 – March 1971), where he had artists perform on the program. Artists included Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers, and Ray Charles.
He occasionally took on acting roles, including guest-starring on Columbo as Tommy Brown. He also acted in films like Five Minutes to Live and The Road to Nashville.
Johnny Cash had an impressive career repertoire: a musician, an actor, an activist, and a variety show host. He was multi-faceted and dynamic. His impact on Country music and Rock is remarkable. His train-like chugging guitar rhythm, bass-baritone voice, and edgy beats were bold. He had a unique sound that influenced the music scene. He sold 90 million records, including 67 studio and 16 live albums. He covered multiple genres: Country, Rockabilly, Rock & Roll, Folk, Blues, Gospel, Outlaw Country and Progressive Country.
A biopic covered the life of Johnny Cash, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Whitherspoon, the actors who portrayed Johnny and June. Both actors got Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress – Reese Whitherspoon won her Oscar for her portrayal of June Carter Cash.
Rest in Peace, Johnny Cash.