June Carter Cash, Country Music Singer/Songwriter

June Carter Cash spent her life surrounded by art and music. She put out three successful solo albums, and her relationship with country legend Johnny Cash produced several major hits, including “Ring of Fire,” which she wrote about their courtship, and Grammy award-winning duets “Jackson” and “If I Were a Carpenter.”

June Carter Cash’s Early Days

Valerie June Carter was born on June 23, 1929, in Maces Springs, Va. Many have referred to Carter as belonging to country music royalty, and there is no doubt that she comes from an important line of country musicians. Her mother, Maybelle Carter, and her aunts, A.P. Carter and Sara Carter, made up the legendary group the Carter Family, a group that Slate Magazine called “the first major recording stars and foremost progenitors of Southeastern country/folk music.” The New York Times credits the Carter Family with moving country music from string-based to vocal music.

When Carter was 10 years old, her family moved from Virginia to Texas to be closer to the radio station where the Carter Family performed. June, along with her sisters, performed with the group. When the original Carter Family disbanded, June performed with just her mother and sisters, mixing performance, comedy, music and gospel in their shows.

It was during her years performing that June met her first husband, singer Carl Smith. The two had one daughter, Carlene. After her divorce from Smith, June married Edwin “Rip” Nix, with whom she had another daughter, Rozanna.

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June Carter Cash’s Musical Career

In addition to her musical career, June also pursued acting. She was performing in 1955 when director Elia Kazan saw her and encouraged her to try acting on stage, The Times reports. Carter eventually starred in several films and TV shows, including the film “The Apostle” and the show “Gunsmoke.”

While touring with Elvis Presley in the mid-1950s, Carter was first introduced to Johnny Cash; the two felt an instant attraction to each other. Although June was married to Nix at the time, she developed a friendship with Cash, attempting to help him combat his well-known drug addiction.

In 1967, after having released an album together, Carter and Cash became engaged. An accomplished songwriter, Carter’s best-known work may be “Ring of Fire,” written to express the torment inspired by her budding romance with Cash.

Although June’s career ultimately thrived during her relationship with Cash, the marriage was not always easy. Cash struggled with drug addiction, as did other members of the Cash clan.

The Woman and Her Work

The Rest of the Story

The recording sessions for June’s final album, “Wildwood Flower,” were a family endeavor: Participants included Cash, June’s son, daughter, cousins, nieces, stepdaughter and daughter-in-law, and the album was recorded in the old family house.

June and Johnny’s son, John Carter Cash, described the recording process to NPR: “We just set up microphones in that living room. Felt enchanted and overwhelmed, sort of, by the living history that was around us.”

On May 15, 2003, shortly after having heart surgery, June died in Nashville. Just months after her death, Cash died as well.

Patrick Carr of Slate reflected on June’s legacy after her death, stating that perhaps her most important contribution to the music world was the support that she lent to her family and to the extended family that she created around her.