Johnny Cash (born J. R. Cash on February 26, 1932; died September 12, 2003) was an American, multi-Grammy Award-winning influential country/rock and roll singer-songwriter. Cash was the husband of country singer and songwriter June Carter Cash.
Cash was known for his deep, distinctive voice, the boom-chick-a-boom or "freight train" sound of his Tennessee Three backing band, his demeanor, and his dark clothing, which earned him the nickname "The Man in Black." He traditionally started his concerts with the simple introduction "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash."
Much of Cash's music, especially that of his later career, echoed themes of sorrow, moral tribulation, and redemption. His signature songs include "I Walk the Line," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Ring of Fire," "That Old Wheel" (a duet with Hank Williams Jr.), "Cocaine Blues," "Man in Black" and his cover version of Trent Reznor's "Hurt." He also recorded several humorous songs, such as "One Piece at a Time," "The One on the Right Is on the Left," "Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog" and "A Boy Named Sue"; rock-and-roll numbers such as "Get Rhythm"; and various railroad songs, such as "Rock Island Line" and "Orange Blossom Special".
He sold over 50 million albums in his nearly 50-year career and came to occupy a "commanding position in music history."
1 Early life 2 Early career 3 Outlaw Image 4 Folsom Prison Blues 5 "The Man in Black" 6 Highwaymen 7 American Recordings 8 Illness and death 9 Legacy 9.1 Portrayals 10 Lists of accomplishments 11 Discography 12 Selected books 13 Notes 14 References 15 External links  Early life
See also: Johnny Cash family "The Man in Black" was born J. R. Cash in Kingsland, Arkansas to his parents both of Scottish descent, and raised in Dyess, Arkansas. By age five, he was working in the cotton fields, singing along with his family as they worked. The family farm was flooded on at least one occasion, which later inspired him to write the song "Five Feet High And Rising." His older brother Jack died in a tragic accident while working a table saw in 1944. His family's economic and personal struggles during the Depression shaped him as a person and inspired many of his songs, especially those about other people facing similar difficulties.
Cash's early memories were dominated by gospel music and radio. Taught by his mother and a childhood friend, Johnny began playing guitar and writing songs as a young boy. In high school he sang on a local radio station. Decades later, he would release an album of traditional gospel songs, called My Mother's Hymn Book. Traditional Irish music that he heard weekly on the Jack Benny radio program, performed by Dennis Day, influenced him greatly.
He was reportedly given the name J. R. because his parents could not agree on a name, only on initials. Giving children such names was not an uncommon practice at the time. He enlisted as a radio operator in the United States Air Force. The military would not accept initials as his name, so he adopted John R. Cash as his legal name. When he signed for Sun Records in 1955, he took "Johnny" Cash as a stage name. His friends and in-laws generally called him John, while his blood relatives often still called him by his birth name, J. R.
 Early career
After basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and technical training at Brooks Air Force Base, both in San Antonio, Cash was assigned to a U.S. Air Force Security Service unit at Landsberg, Germany.
After his term of service ended, Cash married Vivian Liberto on August 7, 1954. The two had met while Cash was training at Brooks. Later in 1954, they moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he sold appliances while studying to be a radio announcer. At night, he played with guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant. Perkins and Grant were known as the Tennessee Two. Cash worked up the courage to visit the Sun Records studio, hoping to get a recording contract. After auditioning for Sam Phillips, singing mostly gospel songs, Phillips told him to "go home and sin, then come back with a song I can sell." Cash eventually won over Phillips with new songs delivered in his early frenetic style. His first recordings at Sun, "Hey Porter" and "Cry Cry Cry," were released in 1955 and met with reasonable success on the country hit parade.
Cash's next record, Folsom Prison Blues, made the country Top 5, and "I Walk the Line" became No. 1 on the country charts, also making it into the pop charts Top 20. Following "I Walk the Line" was Johnny Cash's "Home of the Blues," recorded in July 1957. In 1957, Cash became the first Sun artist to release a long-playing album. Although he was Sun's most consistently best-selling and prolific artist at that time, Cash felt constrained by his contract with the small label. Elvis Presley had already left Sun, and Phillips was focusing most of his attention and promotion on Jerry Lee Lewis. The following year, Cash left the label to sign a lucrative offer with Columbia Records, where his single "Don't Take Your Guns to Town" would become one of his biggest hits.
Cash's first child, a daughter, Rosanne, was born in 1955. Although he would have three more daughters (Kathleen, b. 1956; Cindy, b. 1959; and Tara, b. 1961), his constant touring and drug use put intense strain on his marriage. Vivian and John divorced in 1966.
 Outlaw Image Johnny Cash with guitar in 1958As his career was taking off in the early 1960s, Cash began drinking heavily and became addicted to amphetamines and barbiturates. For a brief time, Cash shared an apartment in Nashville with Waylon Jennings, who was heavily addicted to amphetamines. Cash used the uppers to stay awake during tours. Friends joked about his "nervousness" and erratic behavior, many ignoring the signs of his worsening drug addiction.
Although in many ways spiraling out of control, his frenetic creativity was still delivering hits. His rendition of "Ring of Fire" was a major crossover hit, reaching No. 1 on the country charts and entering the Top 20 on the pop charts. The song was written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore and originally performed by Carter's sister, but the signature mariachi-style horn arrangement was provided by Cash, who said that it had come to him in a dream. The song describes the personal hell Carter went through as she wrestled with her forbidden love for Cash (they were both married to other people at the time) and as she dealt with Cash's personal "ring of fire" (drug dependency and alcoholism).
Cash sometimes spoke of his erratic, drug-induced behavior with some degree of bemused detachment. In June 1965, his truck caught fire due to an overheated wheel bearing, triggering a forest fire that burnt several hundred acres in Los Padres National Forest in California. When the judge asked Cash why he did it, Cash said in his characteristically flippant style at the time, "I didn't do it, my truck did, and it's dead, so you can't question it." The fire destroyed 508 acres, burning the foliage off three mountains and killing 49 of the refuge's 53 endangered condors. Cash was unrepentant: "I don't care about your damn yellow buzzards." The federal government sued him and was awarded $125,127. Johnny eventually settled the case and paid $82,001. In his autobiography, Johnny Cash said he was the only person ever sued by the government for starting a forest fire.
He carefully cultivated a romantic outlaw image, but he never served a prison sentence. Although he landed in jail seven times for misdemeanors, each stay lasted only a single night. His most serious and well-known run-in with the law occurred while on tour in 1965, when he was arrested by a narcotics squad in El Paso, Texas. The officers suspected that he was smuggling heroin from Mexico, but it was prescription narcotics and amphetamines that he had hidden inside his guitar case. Because they were prescription drugs rather than illegal narcotics, he received a suspended sentence.
He was also arrested on May 11, 1965, in Starkville, Mississippi, for trespassing late at night onto private property to pick flowers. (This incident gave the spark for the song "Starkville City Jail", which he spoke about on his live At San Quentin prison album.) The mid 1960s saw Cash release a number of concept albums, including Ballads Of The True West (1965), an experimental double record mixing authentic frontier songs with Cash's spoken narration, and Bitter Tears (1964), with songs highlighting the plight of the Native Americans. His drug addiction was at its worst at this point, however, and his destructive behavior led to a divorce from his first wife and cancelled performances.
Cash quit using drugs in 1968, after a spiritual epiphany in the Nickajack Cave. June, Maybelle and Eck Carter moved into Cash's mansion for a month to help him defeat his addiction. Following, June Carter finally agreed to marry Cash in 1968 after he had 'cleaned up'.  Cash rediscovered his Christian faith, taking an "altar call" in Evangel Temple, a small church in the Nashville area. Cash chose this church over many larger, celebrity churches in the Nashville area because he said he was just another man there and not a celebrity