Man in Black
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by the Man In Black
Johnny Cash and June Carter
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|Johnny Cash, born J. R. Cash, (February 26, 1932 -- September
12, 2003) was a Grammy Award-winning American country
singer-songwriter. Cash is widely considered to be one of the most
influential American musicians of the 20th century.
Cash was known for his deep, distinctive voice, the boom-chick-a-boom or "freight train" sound of his Tennessee Three backing band, his demeanor, and his dark clothing, which earned him the nickname "The Man in Black". He traditionally started his concerts with the introduction "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash."
Much of Cash's music, especially that of his later career, echoed themes of sorrow, moral tribulation, and redemption. His signature songs include "I Walk the Line", "Folsom Prison Blues", "Ring of Fire", "That Old Wheel" (a duet with Hank Williams Jr.), "Cocaine Blues", and "Man in Black". He also recorded several humorous songs, such as "One Piece at a Time", "The One on the Right Is on the Left", "Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog" and "A Boy Named Sue"; rock-and-roll numbers such as "Get Rhythm"; and various railroad songs, such as "Rock Island Line" and "Orange Blossom Special".
He sold over 90 million albums in his nearly fifty-year career and came to occupy a "commanding position in music history "From 1969 to 1971, Cash starred in his own television show, The Johnny Cash Show, on the ABC network. The singing group The Statler Brothers opened up for him in every episode. Other notable artists who appeared on his show included Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, James Taylor, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan.
Cash had met with Dylan in the mid 1960s and became closer friends when they were neighbors in the late 1960s in Woodstock, New York. Cash was enthusiastic about reintroducing the reclusive Dylan to his audience. Cash sang a duet with Dylan on Dylan's country album Nashville Skyline and also wrote the album's Grammy-winning liner notes.
Another artist who received a major career boost from The Johnny Cash Show was songwriter Kris Kristofferson. During a live performance of Kristofferson's "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," Cash made headlines when he refused to change the lyrics to suit network executives, singing the song with its references to marijuana intact: "On the Sunday morning sidewalks / Wishin', Lord, that I was stoned."
By the early 1970s, he had crystallized his public image as "The Man in Black." He regularly performed dressed all in black, wearing a long black knee-length coat. This outfit stood in contrast to the costumes worn by most of the major country acts in his day: rhinestone suit and cowboy boots. In 1971, Cash wrote the song "Man in Black" to help explain his dress code: "We're doing mighty fine I do suppose/In our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes/But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back/Up front there ought to be a man in black."
He and his band had initially worn black shirts because that was the only matching color they had among their various outfits. He wore other colors on stage early in his career, but he claimed to like wearing black both on and off stage. He stated that, political reasons aside, he simply liked black as his on-stage color. To this day, the United States Navy's winter blue service uniform is referred to by sailors as "Johnny Cashes," as the uniform's shirt, tie, and trousers are actually solid black in color.
In the mid 1970s, Cash's popularity and number of hit songs began to decline, but his autobiography (the first of two), titled Man in Black, was published in 1975 and sold 1.3 million copies. A second, Cash: The Autobiography, appeared in 1997. His friendship with Billy Graham led to the production of a movie about the life of Jesus, The Gospel Road, which Cash co-wrote and narrated. The decade saw his religious conviction deepening, and he made many public appearances in an evangelical capacity.
He also continued to appear on television, hosting an annual Christmas special on CBS throughout the 1970s. Later television appearances included a role in an episode of Columbo. He also appeared with his wife on an episode of Little House on the Prairie entitled "The Collection" and gave a performance as John Brown in the 1985 Civil War television mini-series North and South.
He was friendly with every U.S. President starting with Richard Nixon. He was probably closest with Jimmy Carter, who became a very close friend. None of these friendships were about politics (although he supported the Democratic Party). He stated that he found all of them personally charming, noting the fact that it was probably essential to getting oneself elected.
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