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Who Johnny Cash
When September 12, 2003
Where Nashville, TN
What The 'Man in Black' Johnny Cash dead at 71
 

(Excerpt from the article mentioned above)

By Mary Jo DiLonardo
Special to CNN

The "Man in Black" died Friday. Johnny Cash was 71.

Cash died early Friday of complications from diabetes at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, hospital spokeswoman Nicole Bates said.

Perhaps the most widely recognized voice in country music, Cash recorded more than 1,500 songs, which appeared on nearly 500 albums. His career spanned more than four decades with trademark hits like "A Boy Named Sue," "Folsom Prison Blues, "Ring of Fire" and "I Walk the Line."

While Cash has long had one of the premiere voices in country music, his success crossed well over onto the pop scene. He had 48 singles on Billboard's pop charts, rivaling both The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys.

His 10 Grammys include a lifetime achievement award and the 1998 Grammy for country album of the year ("Unchained"). It's said that more than 100 other recording artists and groups have recorded "I Walk the Line."

A child of the Depression, J.R. Cash was born February 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Arkansas. Cash's parents took advantage of a New Deal farm program, moving their large family to Dyess Colony in northeast Arkansas. There they farmed cotton during the day and sang hymns on the porch at night.

At age 12, Cash was writing poems and songs and setting his sights on a musical career. After high school, he enlisted in the Air Force. The military wouldn't accept initials, so Cash chose John as his new first name. While stationed in Germany, Cash bought his first guitar and started a band.

When his hitch was over, Cash moved to Memphis where he sold appliances door-to-door while trying to break into the music business. In 1954, he auditioned for Sam Phillips at Sun Records, hoping to record some simple gospel songs. Instead, Phillips -- who had discovered Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis -- pushed Cash toward a more commercial sound.

Cash's first single, "Hey Porter," had a disappointing debut. But his follow-up, the 1955 "Cry, Cry, Cry," drew national attention. "Folsom Prison Blues" went into the Top Five in country singles in 1956, and "I Walk the Line" became Cash's first No. 1 hit. In 1957, he made his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry. And by 1958, he'd published 50 songs, sold more than six million records and moved to the Columbia label.

In his 1971 hit "Man in Black," Cash said his black clothing symbolized the downtrodden people in the world.

"Everybody was wearing rhinestones, all those sparkle clothes and cowboy boots;" he said in 1986. "I decided to wear a black shirt and pants and see if I could get by with it. I did and I've worn black clothes ever since."

Cash's 1975 autobiography, also called "Man in Black," sold 1.3 million copies.

In 1980, at 48, Cash became the Country Music Hall of Fame's youngest living inductee. He was part of the highly successful Highwaymen quartet with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. When drug problems returned with the use of pain killers, Cash entered the Betty Ford Clinic.

Late in the decade, Cash's radio popularity was fading -- a more contemporary sound was moving into country -- and he broke with Columbia. A new contract with Mercury Nashville didn't reflect his earlier success, but concert performances remained big sellers.

Full text of the article can be found at the link above.

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Contact Mary Jo DiLonardo
CNN


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