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Johnny Cash, the Man in Black, was a singer, guitarist, and songwriter whose music innovatively mixed country, rock, blues, and gospel influences.
Johnny Cash - Hurt (3:32)
Watch a short video about Johnny Cash and find out the highlights and low lights of the career of this rock, gospel and country legend.
As Johnny Cash entered the final days of his life, he covered "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails, and it became one of his most successful and heartbreaking recordings of all time.
After years of presenting himself as the Patriot, Rick Rubin returned Johnny Cash to his darker side in order to expose him to new audiences.
Johnny Cash wrote one of his most well-known songs, "The Man in Black" to explain just why he always dresses in black.
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Singer-songwriter Johnny Cash was born February 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Arkansas. In 1950, Cash joined the Air Force and trained in Texas where he met his first wife. After his service and discharge, he formed a band and landed a record deal. By the early 1960s, he was a musical superstar. In 1967, he married June Carter. He recorded his last track of his final album a week before his death in 2003.
"I'd like to wear a rainbow every day / and tell the world that everything is o.k. / But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back. / Until things are brighter, I'm the Man in Black."
"Sometimes I am two people. Johnny is the nice one. Cash causes all the trouble."
"You've got to know your limitations. ... I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way."
Singer and songwriter Johnny Cash was born on February 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Arkansas. The son of poor Southern Baptist sharecroppers, Cash, one of seven children born to Ray and Carrie Rivers Cash, moved with his family at the age of 3 to Dyess, Arkansas, so that his father could take advantage of the New Deal farming programs instituted by President Roosevelt. There, the Cash clan lived in a five-room house and farmed 20 acres of cotton and other seasonal crops.
John, or J.R. as he was known to those close to him, spent the bulk of the next 15 years out in the fields, working alongside his parents and brothers and sisters. It wasn't always an easy life, Cash would later recall. At the age of 10 he was hauling water for a road gang and at 12 years old he moving large sacks of cotton.
"The entire family, my parents, two brothers and two sisters spent the first night in the truck under a tarpaulin" Cash once said about his family's move to Dyess. "The last thing I remember before going to sleep was my mother beating time on the old Sears-Roebuck guitar, singing 'What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul."
Music was indeed one of the ways the Cash family found escape from some of the hardship. Songs surrounded the young Johnny Cash, be it his mother's folk and hymn ballads, or the working music people sang out in the fields.
From an early age Cash, who first picked up the guitar at the age of 12, showed a love for the music that enveloped his life. Perhaps sensing that her boy had a gift for song, Carrie Rivers Cash scraped together enough money so that Johnny could take singing lessons. Cash was only in his early teens and didn't have much in the way of formal musical training, but after just three lessons his teacher, enthralled with Cash's already unique singing style, told him to stop taking lessons and to never deviate from his natural voice.
Religion, too, had a strong impact on Cash's childhood. His mother was a devout member of the Pentacostal Church of God, and his older brother Jack seemed committed to joining the priesthood. Chances are John's own faith would have always exerted itself to some degree on his own life, but Jack's tragic death in 1944 at the age of 14 in a farming accident solidified Cash's own faith in God.
These things, his farming life and his family's religion, were never strayed too far from in Cash's career. The evidence of this can be seen in songs like "Pickin' Time" and "Five Feet High," a film he made about his visit to Israel and his close relationship with evangelist Billy Graham.
In 1950, Cash graduated high school and left Arkansas for Pontiac, Michigan, where he found work sweeping floors at an auto plant.
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When it comes to singing about struggle and emotion, there are few genres that match the intensity of country music. Country music was born from musicians that were brave enough to wear their hearts on their sleeves from happiness to heartache. Because of country icons like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Jimmie Rodgers, this southern, soulful genre has grown to become loved by many. Browse through the legends that established country music as the popular genre that it is today.
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