Johnny Cash, singer, guitarist and songwriter was the Man in Black, one of the greatest American Icons that mixed country, rock, blues and gospel influences with his so "not typical" voice.
Here is the short biography of the man with my illustrations from his biographical portrait :
Born in the Cottonfields of the Great Depression.
A close Brotherhood tragedy
Cash was very close to his older brother, Jack.
In May 1944, Jack was pulled into a whirling head saw in the mill where he worked and was almost cut in two.
He suffered for over a week before he died on May 20, 1944, at age 15.
Cash often spoke of the horrible guilt he felt over this incident, and live like a troubled man ever since his brother was killed.
A radio operator in Germany
On July 18 1951, while in Air Force training, Cash met 17-year-old Vivian Liberto at a roller skating rink in her native San Antonio.
They dated for three weeks until Cash was deployed to Germany for a three-year tour.
During that time, the couple exchanged hundreds of pages of love letters.
On August 7, 1954, one month after his discharge, they were married at St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in San Antonio.
Family man or Country legend ?
On August 7, 1954, one month after his discharge, johnny and Vivian were married at St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in San Antonio.
The ceremony was performed by her uncle, Father Vincent Liberto.
They had four daughters: Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy and Tara. Liberto stated that Cash's drug and alcohol abuse as well as constant touring, affairs with other women, and his close relationship with June Carter led her to file for divorce in 1966.
Carrer and Addictions
In a behind-the-scenes look at The Johnny Cash Show, Cash claims to have "tried every drug there was to try.
"Hello, I'm Johnny Cash"
Although Cash carefully cultivated a romantic outlaw image, he never served a prison sentence. Despite landing in jail seven times for misdemeanors, each stay lasted only a single night.
In 1968, after a spiritual epiphany in the Nickajack Cave, when he attempted to commit suicide while under the heavy influence of drugs.
He descended deeper into the cave, trying to lose himself and "just die", when he passed out on the floor.
He reported being exhausted and feeling at the end of his rope when he felt God's presence in his heart and managed to struggle out of the cave (despite the exhaustion) by following a faint light and slight breeze.
To him, it was his own rebirth.
Johnny and June
Cash made his wedding proposal to June onstage ! It happens at the London Gardens in London, Ontario, Canada, on February 22, 1968.
The couple married a week later (on March 1) in Franklin, Kentucky. She had agreed to marry Cash after he had "cleaned up".
Johnny Cash live in Prison
Cash felt great compassion for prisoners.
He began performing concerts at prisons starting in the late 1950s. His first prison concert was on January 1, 1959, at San Quentin State Prison.
These performances led to a pair of highly successful live albums, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (1968) and Johnny Cash at San Quentin (1969).
Ring of Fire
Walk the line
A man in Black
He wore black on behalf of
the poor and hungry,
on behalf of "the prisoner who has long paid for his crime",
and on behalf of those who have been betrayed by age or drugs.
Cash's habit of performing in black attire began in a church. This habit was partially reflective of Cash's rebellion "against our hypocritical houses of God".
My portrait of Johnny Cash featuring all theses details is available here.