17 Years Ago: Johnny Cash Dies
Seventeen years ago today, country music lost one of its most beloved stars: Johnny Cash. The legendary singer died on Sept. 12, 2003, of complications from diabetes; he was 71.
Cash began his historic career in 1955 with his first single, "Hey Porter." He went on to record more than 100 albums and release over 150 singles, including "Ring of Fire" and "Folsom Prison Blues." It's been estimated that he penned in excess of 1,000 songs.
The Arkansas native also had his own share of well-publicized personal problems, including a lengthy history with drug and alcohol abuse. It was his marriage to June Carter Cash in 1968 that Cash often credited with helping him overcome his addictions. The couple recorded five albums together and released nine singles, each while pursuing their own solo career.
"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," Cash said of his wife, who passed away just four months before him. "When it gets dark and everybody's gone home and the lights are turned off, it's just me and her.”
Among Cash's many achievements are his induction into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He also won more than 30 major awards -- including 17 Grammys -- and became one of the few artists in history to sell in excess of 90 million records.
The Man in Black's legacy continues to live on long after his death as well: In 2005, his life was chronicled in the Oscar-winning film Walk the Line, and more than a dozen albums have been released since his death, including Icon: Johnny Cash, LIFE Unheard and Out Among the Stars, the latter of which was released in 2014 and debuted at No. 1. In 2018, son John Carter Cash co-produced Forever Words, which featured family members (Rosanne Cash, Carlene Carter) and peers (Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson) setting Cash's poems, letters and writings to music.
This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.
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