With a voice as distinctive as a fine, aged whiskey, Johnny Cash seemed destined to be a singer.
While serving in the military in the 1950s, Cash began writing his own songs. He moved to Memphis to pursue music full-time once he was released, and it was in that city where he auditioned for legendary producer Sam Phillips, who signed Cash to Sun Records in 1955.
He quickly rose to popularity as a country and western artist in the late 1950s, becoming the top recording artist in the genre. But his struggles with drug addiction interfered with that early career success.
After completing treatment for his addiction, Cash released the now-legendary album At Folsom Prison in 1968. It captured his wry sense of humor and magnetic stage presence, as Cash performed in front of 2,000 inmates at California’s Fulsom Prison.
Based on the success of the album, Cash went on to host his own variety show The Johnny Cash Show between 1969 and 1971.
Despite a quieter mid-career release slump, Cash received critical acclaim from two major institutions: He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
He began a steady output of releases toward the end of his life, including the series American, which began with American Recordings in 1994 and included five total LPs. The posthumous album American V: A Hundred Highways came out in 2006.
The winner of multiple honors, including 13 Grammys and the Grammy’s prestigious lifetime achievement award, Cash’s legend survives beyond the many trophies he collected. He left his mark on country and western music, transforming the genre with his renowned voice and songwriting.