Before the days that country music
went mainstream, it was a secret pleasure for me. Honestly, my parents, aunts, uncles and even grandparents were fans of country music. We were blessed to be a musical family and often entertained ourselves by playing the guitar and having sing-a-longs. I even had an uncle who sang a lot like Johnny Cash. Those enjoyable and wholesome gatherings are wonderful memories that seem like another life. Of course, back then I would never admit that to my high school buddies – not in the town I grew up in anyway.
When my parents played music in the house, it was undoubtedly country and a favorite was Johnny Cash, whose deep mellow voice filled the air with melody and the twang of guitars. These were the jolly and happy times times of my youth.
Johnny Cash enjoyed a long career with strong country roots and gained mainstream acceptance. Johnny was born in Arkansas, the son of a poor sharecropper. Gospel music was an important influence on his early career. Even when he became famous and wealthy, he related to the everyman in the streets and to his audience. This common touch made him seem friendly and accessible to his audience. In fact, there was a rumor that he had done time in prison, but it was not true. He had been arrested a few times on drug charges and jailed overnight, but was not imprisoned. The rumor , however, enhanced an aura of dangerous glamor and mystery. He carefully fostered this image with his rebellious persona and took to wearing black outfits, becoming known as “The Man in Black”. In fact, Johnny did seem to have a heart for the plight of the prisoner and became well-known for the shows that his live performances in prison for the prisoners.
During his long productive 50 year career Johnny Cash sold over 50 million albums and is recognized as an important country musician, some would say, one of the most important. He successfully crossed over from rockabilly to rock and roll, refusing to be confined to a type of music. Johnny teamed with many successful musicians during his career, some of the most famous being: Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson formed a super group in the 80’s called The Highwayman.
June Carter Cash, of the famous singing Carter family, was his second wife. They married in 1968 and resided in Nashville. The devoted couple remained wed until 2003, when they passed away, three months apart. They performed and recorded together and raised a family of musicians including: Roseanne Cash, John Carter Cash and Carlene Carter. I can only imagine what kind of music filled the air at their family gatherings.
An Academy Award winning biopic by the name “Walk the Line” starring Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash chronicled the life of the couple. Johnny also wrote two autobiographies titled “Man in Black” and “Cash: The Autobiography”.
Johnny Cash received numerous awards in his legendary careers.including Grammy Awards and Country Music awards. He was inducted into Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1977), the Country Music Hall of Fame (1980), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1992). In in 1997 autobiography Cash stated that his greatest professional achievement was his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Following is my list of the top ten songs of Johnny Cash:
1. Ring of Fire: 1963, June Carter and Merle Kilgore
2. I Walk the Line, 1964, Johnny Cash
3. One Piece at a Time: 1976, Wayne Kemp
4. A Boy Named Sue: 1969, Shel Silverstein
5. Folsom Prison Blues: 1956, Johnny Cash
6. Home of the Blues: 1957, Johnny Cash and Douglas McAlphin
7. Sunday Morning Coming Down, 1970, Kris Kristofferson
8. Cry Cry Cry: 1955, Johnny Cash
9. I’ve Been Everywhere: 1959, Geoff Mack
10. Jackson: 1967, Jerry Lieber