June Carter Cash dead at 73

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Mike McK, May 15, 2003.

  1. Mike McK

    Mike McK
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    NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- June Carter Cash, a scion of a pioneering family in country music and the wife and Grammy-winning duet partner of singer Johnny Cash, died Thursday of complications from heart surgery. She was 73.

    Cash died at Baptist Hospital with her husband and family members at her bedside, manager Lou Robin said.

    Cash had been critically ill. She had surgery May 7 to replace a heart valve.

    A singer, songwriter, musician, actress and author, Cash and her husband performed on record and on stage, doing songs like "Jackson" and "If I Were a Carpenter," which both won Grammy awards in 1967 and 1970, respectively. They recorded duets including "It Ain't Me Babe" in 1964 and "If I Had a Hammer" in 1972.

    In 1961, she turned down an offer to work on a variety show that had Woody Allen as one of the writers, agreeing instead to tour with Johnny Cash for $500 a week. They married in 1968 after he proposed to her on stage on London, Ontario.

    In his 1997 autobiography, Johnny Cash described how his wife stuck with him through his years of amphetamine abuse.

    "June said she knew me -- knew the kernel of me, deep inside, beneath the drugs and deceit and despair and anger and selfishness, and knew my loneliness," he wrote. "She said she could help me. ... If she found my pills, she flushed them down the toilet. And find them she did; she searched for them, relentlessly."

    She was co-writer, with Merle Kilgore, of Cash's 1963 hit "Ring of Fire," which was about falling in love with Cash. She said the song symbolized her feeling of being engulfed by Cash. "John was notorious," she said in 1999. "He roared when he wanted to."

    Played Robert Duvall's mother
    In a 1987 Associated Press interview, she described her husband as "probably the most unusual, fine, unselfish person I've known. He's different. I think the word is 'power.' There's a lot of power to him. I've seen him on shows with people with a No. 1 record or a lot of No. 1 records, but when John walks on that stage, the rest of 'em might as well leave."

    She did occasional acting roles, including the part of Robert Duvall's mother in the 1997 film "The Apostle." With her husband, she periodically performed at Billy Graham crusades.

    Carter Family records helped start the country music industry in the 1920s.

    Maybelle Carter, June's mother, was in the Carter Family with her cousin Sara Carter and Sara's husband, A.P. Carter. In 1927, they made what are among the first country music recordings. June was born two years later, on June 23, 1929, in Maces Spring, Virginia.

    The Carter Family act broke up, but mother and daughters June, Helen and Anita continued as Mother Maybelle & the Carter Sisters. Little June played autoharp and clowned around. She created a character dubbed Aunt Polly, who told corny jokes.

    Starting in 1939, the sisters starred in a radio show on XERA in Del Rio, Texas, that could be heard as far away as Saskatchewan, Canada. The Carters went on to become staples of the Grand Ole Opry country music show in Nashville.

    The Carters' type of harmony singing still inspires today's singers. Maybelle's "Carter lick" on the guitar has become one of the most influential techniques in country music.

    Toured with Elvis
    In the late 1950s, after her marriage to country singer Carl Smith broke up, June Carter Cash moved to New York to study acting at the behest of director Elia Kazan ("On the Waterfront"), who had seen her perform while scouting Tennessee for movie locations.

    Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters had worked with Elvis Presley on tour in the mid-1950s, and were booked by Col. Tom Parker, who was Presley's longtime manager. She once took Presley to see "A Streetcar Named Desire," where they sat with playwright Tennessee Williams and Kazan.

    In 1999, she released an acoustic album, "Press On," that amounted to a musical autobiography and won her another Grammy.

    The album, her first in a quarter-century, followed her career from its beginning through her then 31-year marriage and collaboration with Cash.

    "There's a lot of people who I love -- fans that I've known through the years -- who will be glad I did it," she said about the album in an Associated Press interview at the time. "And maybe some other people ... wonder what Johnny Cash's wife is really like."

    In 1979, she wrote her autobiography, "Among My Klediments," and released"From the Heart," a memoir, in 1987.

    Johnny and June Cash had a son, John Carter Cash, in 1970. She was also the mother of country singer Carlene Carter, whose father was Smith, and singer Rosanne Cash is her stepdaughter.
     
  2. Baptist Believer

    Baptist Believer
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    I'm very sad to hear the news.

    I've been praying for her health since Johnny Cash requested it last weekend.
     
  3. Gayla

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    Sad news. I wasn't aware Mrs June was in bad health. I figured Johnny would be the first to go . .. .


    gayla
     
  4. D28guy

    D28guy
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    She was a daughter of Maybelle, wasnt she?

    Mike
     
  5. Mike McK

    Mike McK
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    Yes. She performed with her mother and three sisters as the Carter Family and then as The Carter Sisters and Mother Maybelle.

    Her contributions to country, rock, folk and old time music cannot be underestimated.

    She was an influence on Elvis, mentored a young Dolly Parton, and was a fixture on the Opry for more than fifty years.

    When the Smithsonian started their "Folkways" record label to preserve American folk music, she was asked to be a consultant and was instrumental (pun intended) in saving countless examples of folk and old time music that might have been otherwise lost.
     
  6. SaggyWoman

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    I didn't realize she played Robert Duvall's mother.
     
  7. Mike McK

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    Yeah, that was her. She evidently was on her way on Broadway in the fifties. I remember seeing a story about her and Johnny in which Charlton Heston said that she was one of the most talented actresses he'd ever worked with and what a shame it was when she quit acting.
     
  8. rsr

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    I hadn't been keeping up and was shocked to hear of her death.

    I first saw Johnny's video of "Hurt" on the day she died. Powerful stuff.
     
  9. Clay Knick

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    I read Cash's autobiography last year. A wonderful book for Cash fans. After reading the book I came away with real admiration for him-and
    June. She's been a "rock" for him. It is so strange. He's been so ill over the last few years and I'm sure many of us would not have been surprised had he died. Life is fragile and so
    unpredictable, a precious gift.

    Blessings on John in this time of grief.

    Clay
     
  10. fromtheright

    fromtheright
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    Terribly sad news. While I knew she was an excellent musician in her own right and of course was aware of her strong musical heritage in the Carter family, I didn't know the details that Mike McK provided. As a longtime Johnny Cash fan I have long treasured her for the indispensable anchor she provided to him over many decades. It would be a huge understatement to suggest that he would not have been near the success without her presence and influence on him.
     
  11. Mike McK

    Mike McK
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    I don't know about that. Most of his most influential stuff had already been done by the time they were married and his mid-70's stuff through his work with Rick Ruben is largely forgetable.

    I think much more so than her influence artistically was helping him break his dependance on a number of drugs. He's said many times that both he and Waylon Jennings would have been dead long ago without her and, if what we know about their drug abuse is true, he's probably right.
     
  12. fromtheright

    fromtheright
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    But, Mike, weren't they "an item" for several years before they married, I'm thinking of the 60's.
     

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