Award-Winning Singer. Novelist. Ordained Minister. TV Host. Rebel. Actor. Father. Loving Husband. Johnny Cash was a truly fascinating man. He lived a full, eventful life when he walked on the planet.
Born in 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas, Cash was unlucky to live through the Great Depression under President Franklin Roosevelt, but he managed to make his days great through his myriad skills and talents.
Most 12-year-olds don’t have the time to think about doing important stuff like making music. Playing video games, shopping, and hanging out with friends take more precedence at this age. Trust Johnny to change the narrative and do something no one else among his mates is doing.
By the time he was 12, he was already writing stories, songs, and poems. Cash says that he always knew he wanted to write songs in the future. If you know him, his dreams came true before he passed away. He went on to become one of the best recording artists American has seen.
Who is Johnny Cash?
Johnny Cash needs no introduction, at least not to music lovers. However, if you have never heard that name before, you might benefit from a little intro.
His legal name is J.R. Cash, but he is known universally as Johnny Cash. J.R. stands for Jay and Rivers. The former is his dad’s name, and the latter, his mother’s maiden name.
It is said that each parent wanted him to bear their name. When they couldn’t agree, they reached a compromise that they would use both their initials.
When Cash joined the forces later in his life (yes, he did that too!), he changed his name to John R. Cash as the force demanded a first name during registration. However, the name later became Johnny Cash when the veteran started his singing career in 1955.
Most people know Cash as a talented singer. That’s because he genuinely is. He became a serious songwriter when he was stationed in Germany during his U.S. Air Force days. He had this to say:
“Being miles apart from my family members and friends for two and a half years, I put my songwriting skills to test. I wrote, not necessarily because I was bored or lonely but because I was all alone, and I used it as a way to express myself to me, my friends, and the world at large.”
Cash had a whopping 97 albums under his belt. Yes, you read that right! He sold over 90 million worldwide during his music career. The artist sang about anything and everything. He mostly wrote music on moral tribulation, sorrow, and redemption and sang them in his signature deep but calm baritone voice.
His concerts were free and hip, complete with guitar rhythms, somber and humble backup bands, and the trademark black ensembles that gave him the acclaimed name ‘The Man in Black.”
Some of his top tracks include “Ring of Fire,” “One Piece at a Time,” “Rock Island Line,” “Walk the Line,” “Personal Jesus,” and “Nine Inch Nails.” His hits have been used in big-time movies’ including “Django Unchained,” “Logan,” “Silent Hill,” “Killing Them Softly,” and “Walk the Line.” Throughout his long music career, Johnny received 35 Grammy nominations, out of which he clinched 13 Grammy wins.
Apart from making music, J.R. was also a T.V. host for his show The Johnny Cash Show (1969-1971). The show created a ton of buzz that it reached the 17th position in Nielsen ratings of 1970. Cash also appeared in several movies and T.V. shows between 1953 and 2003 but never really made it big.
Why Did He Always Wear Black?
Despite adorning black in almost all his public appearances and even writing “Man in Black” song, Cash didn’t always wear black outfits. He explained his inclination to black in the song’s lyrics, claiming that he did it to stand against injustices.
“I adorn black for all the poor people and those beaten down, the ones living in the hungry, hopeless side of town, I dress in black for the inmate who has served enough time for his crimes, but is still in prison because he fell victim of the times.”
It is also alleged that Cash had a black shirt the first time he performed at a church in Memphis because he wanted to be ‘smart.” He then kept on adorning black shirts for good luck in all his performances.
Later on, Johnny said this about his outfit: “I wore black just because I liked it. Wearing it also had a deep meaning to me. It’s my way of rebelling against a quiet status quo, against hypocrisy in churches, against persons who are not open to the ideas of other people.”
He may have lived for only 71 years (he passed away in 2003), but Johnny Cash sure lived multiple lifetimes. His footsteps shall forever be followed by generations to come. His hits are a constant reminder of a man that dropped everything before making his exit.