When June Carter Cash died in May 2003, husband Johnny Cash must have been devastated. He died September that same year, barely four months after his beloved partner of 35 years. Today, we look back at June and Johnny’s timeless romance.
June Carter (1929–2003) was born into one of country music’s most famous families. She began performing and recording with the Carter Family when she was just 10.
Johnny Cash (1932–2003) was born J.R. Cash and took his stage name when he signed with Sun Records in 1955. Cash had hits that year with his recordings “Hey Porter” and “Cry! Cry! Cry!”
From left, sisters Anita Carter (1933–1999), Helen Carter (1927–1998), and June Carter, with their mother Maybelle Carter (1909–1978) in front.
June’s mother Maybelle Carter first gained fame singing and playing guitar with her sister and brother-in-law as The Carter Family. She began performing with her daughters as Mother Maybelle & the Carter Sisters in 1943. In 1950, the group took their act to the Grand Ole Opry, where they met and befriended Johnny Cash.
June and her family performed with Cash for many years. One of the couple’s greatest musical triumphs came in 1967, the year before they wed. Maybe a bit of romantic tension drove the fantastic collaboration that resulted in “Jackson.” The single hit No. 2 and won the couple a Grammy.
June and Johnny married March 1, 1968. Soon thereafter, Cash starred on television in “The Johnny Cash Show” on ABC. From 1969 to 1971, Cash opened each show and featured country artists such as the Carter Sisters, Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers.
Johnny and June welcomed baby John Carter Cash on March 7, 1970.
“If I Were a Carpenter,” June and Johnny’s 1970 duet, went to No. 2 on the country charts and earned them a Grammy Award for best country vocal performance by a duo or group.
Johnny and June performing onstage in 1973. Though both were remarkable solo artists, working together only increased their appeal — and the songs that feature both singers are some of the best of their careers.
Johnny and June arrive at U.S. District Court in Washington to watch the Watergate cover-up trial, Nov. 11, 1974. The two were invited by prosecutor James Neal.
Johnny and June’s partnership extended far beyond mutual love and caring. They maintained a strong working relationship too, recording and performing together throughout their marriage.
When they married, Johnny and June blended their families. Here they are circa 1976 with three of their children. From left: John Carter Cash, Rosanne Cash, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, and Carlene Carter.
June died in 2003 of complications following a heart-valve replacement surgery. Her stepdaughter, Rosanne Cash, said at June’s funeral, “If being a wife were a corporation, June would have been a CEO. It was her most treasured role.”
Losing his wife was crushing. The day after June died in May 2003, Johnny told producer Rick Rubin that he HAD to work to keep himself going.
When Johnny died not four months after June, it was not hard to believe that he couldn’t live without her, his partner of 35 years.