“I’d like to wear a rainbow every day and tell the world that everything is o.k. But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back. Until things are brighter, I’m the Man in Black.”
– Johnny Cash
Singer-songwriter Johnny Cash was born February 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Arkansas. In 1950, Cash joined the Air Force and trained in Texas where he met his first wife. After his service and discharge, he formed a band and landed a record deal. By the early 1960s, he was a musical superstar. In 1967, he married June Carter.
In the late 70s, Cash’s popularity dwindled somewhat, but the Man in Black still had a few hits. He published the first of two autobiographies (Man in Black,) guest-starred on episodes of Columbo and Little House on the Prairie, and began hosting annual Christmas specials on CBS. In 1980, Cash became the youngest artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. His solo work was not very prevalent at that point, so he played with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. They released two hit albums under the name The Highwaymen. Cash did more acting, including a critically acclaimed performance as John Brown in the miniseries North and South 1985.
Cash’s career was rejuvenated in the 1990s by recording with such acts as U2, but his solo career returned full swing when he joined with producer Rick Rubin in 1994. Rubin signed Cash to his American Recordings label, and Johnny began putting out albums of both cover songs and original material. The first album, American Recordings (1994) was released to both critical and commercial success. Four more albums were released in the series the last posthumously. The albums included guest appearances by such artists as Sheryl Crow and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
In 1997, Cash was diagnosed with autonomic neuropathy associated with his diabetes. He stopped touring, but continued recording. American IV: The Man Comes Around was released in 1994, featuring a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt. The video for the song was an artistic triumph and the final chapter in a remarkable career.
Cash died on September 12, 2003 in a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 71. Today, there is a newfound interest in the life and music of the “Man in Black,” thanks to the 2005 biopic, Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.