17 Years Ago: Johnny Cash Dies at 71
Country music lost one of its all-time greatest singers and songwriters on Sept. 12, 2003, when Johnny Cash died at the age of 71.
The legendary Man in Black left behind a vast musical legacy, beginning with the release of his debut single, "Hey Porter," in 1955 and continuing with a long string of classics that included "I Walk the Line," "Ring of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "One Piece at a Time" and many more. Cash recorded more than 100 albums and released more than 150 singles, and he was one of the few country stars of his era to release some of his most powerful work later in his career, instead of fading into relative obscurity.
His American Recordings album in 1994 sparked off a career resurgence that continued even as Cash's health began to decline. It won him a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and his subsequent album, Unchained, received a Grammy for Best Country Album in 1996. Cash released the final album of his lifetime, American IV: The Man Comes Around, in November of 2002.
Cash was a member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he earned a career total of 13 Grammys and sold 90 million records over the decades.
Cash's beloved wife, June Carter Cash, died on May 15, 2003, and Cash was already struggling with multiple health issues at that time. He gave his final public performance on July 5, 2003, performing a 30-minute set at the Carter Family Folds in Hiltons, Va., that included "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line," "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "Ring of Fire," "Angel Band," "Big River" and "Understand Your Man."
The iconic musician died just nine weeks later on Sept. 12, from respiratory failure that was a complication of diabetes.
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