J. R. “Johnny” Cash, most known as The Man In Black , was an incredible singer, musician, writer, and actor. Many experts consider him as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. His approach to music and his songs about the lives of everyday people made him extremely popular.
Johnny Cash was born in Kingsland, Arkansas on February 26, 1932. He belonged to a large Scottish and English family. When he was three years old, his parents Roy and Carrie relocated to Dyess, Arkansas and rented a farm and land. Together with his siblings, Johnny started to work on cotton fields at the age of five. The future musician was very close to his brother Jack. In spring 1944, a tragedy happened; Jack died at a timber work and it was extremely difficult for Johnny to accept his death.
When he graduated from a local middle school, Johnny left the farm in order to look for a job. In 1951, he enlisted as a radio operator in the U.S. Air Force. He had to adopt John R. Cash as his given name because the military wouldn’t accept just the initials that his parents gave him. This then became his legal name. He was sent to Germany by the Air Force. He eventually returned to the U.S. after his service.
In 1954, shortly after getting married to Vivian Liberto, Cash moved to Memphis, Tennessee with his wife. There, he worked as a salesman but his main focus was starting a career in the music industry. He auditioned at Sun Studios but got rejected. Later, he changed his music style and tried again. This time, the studio hired him, allowing him to record his first musical hits: “Hey Porter” and “Cry! Cry! Cry!”.
Rise to Fame
After releasing several successful albums, such as “I Walk the Line”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, and “Home of the Blues”, Johnny Cash became one of the top and bestselling musicians in Sun Records. In the early 1960s, the artist did many tours across the country, performing his iconic country music.
Cash started using performance-enhancing drugs to keep his energy up for the tours. Eventually, he got addicted to them. However, despite his partial loss of control, he continued to record and present new hits. For instance, his “Ring of Fire” became an instant hit and topped the American charts at release.
At the end of 1967, Cash put a lot of effort in his career. He held concerts in Canada, released a new album called “From Sea to Shining Sea”, and performed many concerts in prisons as well. Later on, he released two of his most successful albums i.e. “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison” and “Johnny Cash at San Quentin”. Both albums performed extremely well, even breaking the record of The Beatles in terms of copies sold.
The Man in Black
In 1969, Johnny Cash created his own TV show called “The Johnny Cash Show” to support his music activities. By the 1970s, he had created his public image. Many called him “the Undertaker” due to his choice of black attire. However, the artist considered himself a “Man in Black” which he quickly became famous as. In 1971, he released a song under the same title.
At the end of the 1990s, Cash was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and diabetes. Because of his condition, he almost stopped touring and reduced the number of shows. But he still continued to record and release new albums. His last public appearance was in July 2003.
Challenges and Setbacks
In the 1960s, when Johnny Cash’s music career was taking off, he started using performance-enhancing drugs and ultimately became addicted to barbiturates and amphetamines. He also landed in jail several times for misdemeanors. His most famous and serious run-in with the law enforcement happened in 1965 when he was on a tour. The narcotics squad in El Paso, Texas arrested him as a suspect for heroin smuggling. Later, it was revealed that he had amphetamines hidden in his guitar case. Since these are not illegal narcotics but simply prescription drugs, he received a suspended sentence. One year later, he got arrested again in Starkville, Mississippi for trespassing onto a private property at nighttime.
At one point in 1966, Cash was high on amphetamines and crawled into Nickajack Cave with a plan to commit suicide. He pulled back from the incident but it led to his wife taking the decision to end their marriage.
Johnny Cash married Vivian Liberto in 1954. They had four daughters, i.e. Cindy, Kathy, Tara, and Rosanne. The singer’s relationship with June Carter led to his divorce with Vivian. Then in 1968, Cash married Carter and the couple’s only child John Carter Cash was born in 1970.
Awards and Accomplishments
Legendary singer Johnny Cash received many awards and honors over the years. These include thirteen Grammy awards, including two Grammy Hall of Fame Awards for his songs “Ring of Fire” and “I Walk The Line”. Apart from these, he also received multiple Country Music Association awards, CMA awards, Academy of Country Music awards, the National Medal of Arts, and the Kennedy Center Honors.T he Man in Black has also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Charity and Activism
Born to a poor farming community, Cash had a strong sense of sympathy for the downtrodden. So, he used his resources and fame as a tool to help make the world a better place. Throughout his music career, he played dozens of free shows at prisons and brought a message of hope to the incarcerated. He also became a keen spokesperson for prison reform. The singer had a soft spot for children as well. He supported the construction of an SOS Children’s Village in Jamaica. He dedicated one of his songs to the children of the village and donated all the royalties from it to the SOS Children’s Village. Being a philanthropist was a huge part of who Cash was and it’s a part of the legacy that his loved ones continue today.
The Man In Black Most Known for
Johnny Cash is considered as one of the most respected and influential music artists of all time. He was primarily famous as a country music icon but his songs and music embraced many other genres, including gospel, blues, rockabilly, folk, and rock and roll. The artist was known for his distinctive, deep voice and his dark attire and demeanor, which earned him the title “The Man in Black”. His most popular songs include “Man in Black”, “I Walk the Line”, “Ring of Fire”, and “Folsom Prison Blues”.
Cash has inspired numerous artists and left a legacy that is matched only by the greatest musicians of his time. He struggled throughout his life but his powerful music and his influential personality earned him the respect many can only dream of. His accomplishments as an artist and as a human being make him an iconic Black Sheep of the Month. No one is perfect in this world, but he is a great example that you can have many setbacks in life, but still try to do your best even if it takes you years to realize it. We hope you enjoyed this month’s black sheep of the month. Till next time! – The Black Sheep