On September 12, 2003, the world bid goodbye to the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. And it was a heartbreaking day not just for the genre but for the whole music industry as well. The 71-year-old country music icon passed away in the early-morning hours at Nashville’s Baptist Hospital. He succumbed to respiratory failure brought on by complications from diabetes, which he had been battling for years.
Aside from multiple health issues, Cash had also been mourning the death of June Carter Cash, his wife of 35 years and longtime companion, four months earlier.
Johnny Cash – His Last Days
Johnny Cash had been suffering from pill addiction for decades, and it was thanks to June Carter that he was able to overcome it. She was also the one by his side as he braved through bouts of bad health. And so, her passing undoubtedly weighed on Johnny’s heart.
Two months after her death and two months before his own, Cash made his final live performance at the Carter Family Fold. He was introduced by the daughter of Sara and A.P., Janette Carter, and while he was too weak to walk to the center stage, he insisted that he would do so. He didn’t want to be brought up on stage using a wheelchair.
And then, for the next half hour, the audience enjoyed a repertoire of Johnny Cash’s classic hits, including “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” and his last track of the night, “Understand Your Man.” In the middle of his set, he stopped and reflected poignantly on his late wife. He said, “The spirit of June Carter overshadows me tonight. With the love she had for me and the love I have for her, we connect somewhere between here and Heaven.”
He then continued, sharing that she came for a short visit to give him courage and inspiration like she always had.
Johnny and June were buried next to each other in Hendersonville Memory Gardens, a few miles northeast of Nashville. They had one child together, John Carter Cash, an American singer-songwriter and musician.
It had been decades since Johnny Cash’s death, yet his impact continues to influence artists not just in country music but across other genres as well.