#TBT: Remembering Johnny Cash

This Throwback Thursday, we're exploring the life and career of the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. Born February 26, 1932, Cash would've been 85 this year. He died in 2003, months after his beloved wife, June Carter Cash, passed away. Cash's memory and music live on.

Born in Arkansas, Johnny Cash worked in the cotton fields and was raised a Baptist. He credits this upbringing for the religious influences in his music, which you can hear on My Mother's Hymn Book and Gospel Music of Johnny Cash.

After serving in the Air Force, where he learned to play the guitar, Cash was living in Memphis, married to his first wife, Vivian, and working as a salesman when he approached Sam Phillips at Sun Records. He cut his first single, "Cry, Cry, Cry," in 1955, and the hits kept coming.

By 1958, Cash had four No. 1 singles at Sun, but left to sign with Columbia Records due to clashes with Phillips. Through drug addiction and divorce, which his ex-wife chronicled in I Walked the Line, Johnny Cash's outlaw persona was born. His famed concert, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, was recorded in 1968, followed by Johnny Cash at San Quentin, where he performed the popular (and my favorite) "A Boy Named Sue."


Cash married June Carter around this time. Their courtship and love story is portrayed in the movie Walk the Line.

From the 1990s until his death, Cash worked with rap music producer and Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin. He rebooted his career with the stark and brooding American Recordings, which won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1995.

Icon, hero, father, husband, friend, Johnny Cash is remembered as all and more. Fall down, down, down and explore Johnny Cash's life in his own words and those of others, as well as his extensive music catalog (including titles on vinyl). We still miss you, Johnny!

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Chicago Public Library