JOHNNY CASH remained an active recording artist into his last days—most recently earning six nominations at the 2003 MTV Music Video Awards for his version of Hurt, the Nine Inch Nails elegy Cash sang in his gritty quaver. Illness caused him to miss the awards show, but his presence was felt: when Justin Timberlake beat the elderly singer for the Best Male Video prize, he dedicated it to Cash. It was a fitting tribute—Cash had said “humility” was the quality he liked most in a man.
With the country music artist’s death last week, at age 71, of complications from diabetes, a five-decade career came to an end. One measure of the singer’s prowess is that he earned a lot of respect from today’s musicians, especially considering that his start coincided with the birth of rock ’n’ roll. Born John R. Cash on Feb. 26,1932, in Kingsland, Ark., he taught himself to play guitar while
in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. After signing with Sun Records in 1955, Cash penned some of his most famous material, including Folsom Prison Blues and I Walk the Line. He saw himself as a champion of the poor, writing hard-luck songs about working-class life. At the peak of his popularity in the late ’60s and early ’70s, he appeared in several films and hosted his own TV show.
Cash is survived by his children, daughter Rosanne, a noted country singer in her own right, and son John Carter, a music producer. June Carter, Cash’s second wife and co-author of Ring of Fire, the woman to whom he proposed on stage in London, Ont. in 1968, died last May. Cash described her as the greatest love of his life. When he told Vanity Fair in 1997 that “Beauty, inside and out” was the quality he most admired in a woman, he was referring to her. fil
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