Tribute to Johnny Cash: Ten Years After His Death

It was on this date in 2003 that we lost The Man In Black. Johnny Cash, country music’s leading outlaw and pioneer, died at the age of 71, less than four months after his wife, June Carter Cash, passed away. Johnny Cash’s mark on music is immeasurable, his giant person remains unchallenged and his love story with June continues to inspire. Today, we remember Johnny Cash through his music and with a little help of his daughter, Rosanne Cash. Here to talk more about Cash is our Afternoon Mix host, Rosemary Welsch. Good Morning!

Rosemary, when asked what she thinks of when someone mentions Cash, said “almost immediately, I think American. He’s the ultimate American story, he grows up in the cotton fields, picking cotton with his family in Arkansas, rises above that, goes into the military, married when he’s 18-19 years old, works really hard, beginning of rock and roll, gets more into the country element, struggles with addiction, raises his family, has a real lull in his career, then resurrects himself, totally recreates himself, an American thing, I think.”

Cindy can’t help but get choked up while thinking about Cash and his devotion to his family. Rosanne Cash, Johnny’s daughter, is also a musician, and Rosemary Welsch had an opportunity to interview her. She told Rosemary about how she went on tour with Johnny, and they talked about lots of music that Rosanne wasn’t familiar with. Johnny was appalled that his daughter didn’t know some of his favorite songs, so he made her a list of 100 songs she needed to know. Rosanne said that it was really incredible how he had so many songs right at his fingertips in so many different genres.

Rosanne was just in high school when Johnny Cash had The Johnny Cash Show. Cash used his show to introduce many younger artists to his audience including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, James Taylor, and others. “Johnny is truly a lover of music, and he does this because he believes in them.” Rosanne basked in the glory of her father’s television show. When she was older, she recorded a version of “Girl From the North Country”, a song that Johnny Cash collaborated with Bob Dylan for. She didn’t want to collaborate with Bob Dylan, believing that it would be too gimmicky, but she did take inspiration from Dylan’s original version of the song, “which was very much in a classic folk tradition.” 

Collaboration with Johnny was something that she definitely wanted to do later in her career, despite reservations about collaborating in her early career. “September When It Comes” is a tragic and prophetic song, considering Cash’s eventual death in the month of September. John Carter Cash was the studio engineer for the song, which was recorded in the Cash family’s studio.

June Carter Cash, Johnny’s wife, was really meant to be his family. The two knew each other for quite some time before they got married, but June said she wouldn’t do anything with him until he straightened out his life. He pulled himself together enough, despite drug addiction and other complications, to meet her standard, and finally they got married. June died in May of 2003, and Johnny followed only five months later in September.