June Carter Cash's Death, Life, And Times: Biography Of The Woman Who Made Johnny Cash Better
American country singer Johnny Cash with his wife June Carter photographed in a London park during their visit to Britain, a few weeks after their wedding. 3rd May 1968. (Photo by Ley, Charlie/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
Even before she married Johnny Cash, June Carter was country-music royalty as a young member of the Carter Family. Her mother Maybelle, with June's uncle A.P. Carter and aunt Sara Carter, recorded Appalachian folk songs in the 1920s and onward that became the bedrock of the developing genre of country music. After the original Carter Family disbanded in 1944, June performed and recorded with two sisters and her mother as The Carter Sisters or Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. As Johnny Cash's wife, and his duet partner (most notably on the song "Jackson"), June Carter Cash was the guiding light of the most important country artist this side of Hank Williams.
They say that behind every great man stands a great woman. While that phrase may be old fashioned, it fits the love story of June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash to a T. June Carter Cash started as a singer-songwriter, born into a family of country singers. She played the autoharp, rhythm guitar, and stole the hearts of audiences everywhere with her witty repartee. After two failed marriages and a tour of duty as Elvis’ lover, Carter met Cash and the rest, as they say, is history.
Love At First Sight
June Carter Cash first learned of Johnny Cash through The King. Elvis would take Carter to coffee shops where they would listen to the Man In Black’s baritone voice. Then, while she was touring the South, a man walked up to her and said, “I want to meet you, I’m Johnny Cash.” In her naturally witty way, Carter responded, “Well I oughta know who you are. Elvis can’t even tune his guitar unless he goes, 'Everybody knows where you go when the sun goes down.” It’s said that in that first meeting, Cash told Carter that he was going to marry her someday.
Persistence Pays Off
Cash fell in love with Carter at the drop of a hat, this despite both being married at the time. Carter held back at first. She famously turned down numerous Cash marriage proposals over the years. However, the intractable pull of love was inevitable and despite her best efforts, Carter eventually relented.
She confessed, “I realized that oh my Lord! I think I’m falling in love with Johnny Cash, and this is the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. It is like I’m in a ring of fire, and I’m never coming out. I’m going down, down to the bottom of this thing. It’s going to kill me, because I would never have the nerve to tell him, nor do I want to tell him, nor do I want anybody to even know I’ve got these feelings."
The Muse Of All Muses
When Carter finally said yes to Cash’s marriage proposals, it was in front of 7,000 people in London, Ontario. Carter not only wrote the transcendent “Ring of Fire” based on the pain of their love but also inspired many of Cash’s greatest works. The pair made beautiful music together, on and off the stage. Despite his many foibles, Carter saw the best in Cash.
“He’s just like my father that way - my father just adored my mother and let her do whatever she wanted. John’s like that. He’s a very rare man, a very good man, and I’ve had a good life with him. I’m proud to be walking in the wake of Johnny’s fame.”
And Cash, despite his addiction to drugs and other women, loved her uniquely. “There’s unconditional love there. You hear that phrase a lot but it’s real with me and her. She loves me in spite of everything, in spite of myself. She has saved my life more than once. She’s always been there with her love, and it has certainly made me forget the pain for a long time, many times. When it gets dark and everybody’s gone home and the lights are turned off, it’s just me and her.”
A Never-Ending Love
The love story of June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash was memorialized in the 2005 film Walk The Line. The movie came out two years after the passing of the legendary couple. Carter approved Reese Witherspoon to play her, for which she won an Oscar.
According to Carter’s daughter, she enjoyed nothing more than being married to Cash. “If being a wife were a corporation, June would have been a CEO. It was her most treasured role. His definition of paradise was “This morning, with her, having coffee.” He died four months after her passing. Coffee just wasn’t the same without her.
Tags: Country Music | Johnny Cash | June Carter | June Carter Cash
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