May 26, 2008
June Carter Cash
In the shadow of a famous family and an even more famous husband, June Carter Cash has largely been known and defined as a supporting player in legacies larger than her own. But while she did choose to place her own career second to her obligations to The Carter Family and then to Johnny Cash, her work has also been important on its own.
The daughter of Maybelle Carter, she was already performing with her mother and sisters Helen and Anita at the age of ten. From the forties on, she was a primary member of Mother Maybelle & The Carter Sisters. In 1950, the group moved to Nashville and joined the Grand Ole Opry Cast. There, Carter became known for her offbeat comic personality as much as her music, though she did have a solo hit in 1956 with “Juke Box Blues.” During this period, she was married to country star Carl Smith, and together they had a daughter who would become a third generation country star, Carlene Carter.
In the early sixties, the Carters began touring with Johnny Cash. On the road, June developed feelings for Cash which she immortalized in song. She co-wrote “Ring of Fire” with Merle Kilgore, and Johnny made it an enormous hit in 1963. In 1965, she sang with Cash on his single “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” For the next decade, almost all of her recordings of note would be with Cash, including the Grammy-winning hits “Jackson” and “If I Had a Hammer.” June and Johnny married in 1968, and their son John Carter Cash was born in 1970.
June is widely credited for getting Johnny’s professional and personal life in order, and helping him battle drug and alcohol addictions. Her own career was put on the back burner, but she did record the excellent solo album Appalachian Pride in 1975. Unfortunately, fans of June Carter the solo act would wait another 24 years before she’d return with another album, but 1999′s Press On was warmly received, earning her her first solo Grammy.
When she passed away in 2002 from complications during heart surgery, her husband followed only months later. In the years since, her legacy finally began to get the attention it warranted. The posthumous album Wildwood Flower earned a pair of Grammys in 2004. Johnny & June’s love story was immortalized on film in 2006 with Walk the Line. Reese Witherspoon, who was personally chosen by June, won an Oscar for her portrayal of the legend. Meanwhile, her daughter, Carlene Carter, portrayed her on stage in Nashville, in a show that explored the “Carter” part of the June Carter Cash legacy.
June Carter Cash
- “Juke Box Blues”, 1956
- “Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash single), 1963
- “It Ain’t Me Babe” (with Johnny Cash), 1965
- “Jackson” (with Johnny Cash), 1967
- “If I Were a Carpenter” (with Johnny Cash), 1970
- Carryin’ On with Johnny Cash and June Carter, 1967
- Appalachian Pride, 1975
- Press On, 1999
- Wildwood Flower, 2003
- CMA Vocal Group of the Year – Johnny Cash & June Carter, 1969
- Grammy: Best Country Vocal Performance, Duo/Group (“Jackson”), 1968
- Grammy: Best Country Vocal Performance, Duo/Group (“If I Were a Carpenter”), 1971
- Grammy: Best Traditional Folk Album (Press On), 2000
- Grammy: Best Traditional Folk Album (Wildwood Flower), 2004
- Grammy: Best Female Country Vocal Performance (“Keep On the Sunny Side”), 2004