Johnny Cash (born February 26, 1932, Kingsland, Arkansas, U.S.—died September 12, 2003, Nashville, Tennessee) was an American singer and songwriter whose work broadened the scope of country and western music.
Cash was exposed from childhood to the music of the rural South—hymns, folk ballads, and songs of work and lament—but he learned to play guitar and began writing songs during military service in Germany in the early 1950s. After military service he settled in Memphis,
1957 Cash was the top recording artist in the country and western field. His music was noted for its stripped-down sound and focus on the working poor and social and political issues. Cash, who typically wore black clothes and had a rebellious persona, became known as the “Man in Black.”
In the 1960s Cash’s popularity began to wane as he battled drug addiction, which would recur throughout his life. At the urging of June Carter of the Carter Family, with whom he had worked since 1961, he eventually sought treatment; the couple married in 1968. By the late 1960s Cash’s career was back on track, and he was soon discovered by a wider audience. The signal event in Cash’s turnaround was the album Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (1968), which was recorded live in front of an audience of some 2,000 inmates at California’s Folsom Prison.
Although Cash had established himself as a legend in the music world, by the late 1980s he faced dwindling record sales and interest. In 1994, however, he experienced an unexpected resurgence after signing with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings, which was best known for its metal and rap acts.
he won 13 Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement award in 1999, and 9 Country Music Association Awards. Cash was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980 and to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. In 1996 he received a Kennedy Center Honor. His autobiographies Man in Black and Cash (cowritten with Patrick Carr) appeared in 1975 and 1997, respectively. Walk the Line, a film based on Cash’s life, was released in 2005.