Famous in the 1960's, they weren't just known for their music. The Cash and Carter love story dominated the hearts of everyone who loved them.
From Jackson to I Walk The Line, there are very few who would not be aware of the intense chemistry between the famous country singer couple - Johnny Cash and June Carter. Their story has been tumultuous, insane and sometimes downright tragic, but the love that bound them together stayed strong until death did them part. It is their journey that inspired an Oscar-caliber movie (the 2005 Walk the Line, featuring Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix) about their relationship.
So let's go back to the beginning...
A fact not many might know is that the famous Elvis Presley played matchmaker. According to June, “I first heard of [Johnny Cash] through Elvis Presley. Elvis would make me go into these little cafés and listen to John [on the jukebox] when we played in the South–in the Carolinas and all down through Florida and Georgia."
"Then, one night backstage at the Opry, this man walked up to me and said, ‘I want to meet you, I’m Johnny Cash.’ And I said, ‘Well I oughta know who you are. Elvis can’t even tune his guitar unless he goes Everybody knows where you go when the sun goes down.'" said June. And thus began their story.
They were both married to other people at the time that they met and according to The Vintage News, June did not fall as quickly for Johnny as he did for her but they were both aware of the undeniable sparks.
“I can’t remember anything else we talked about, except his eyes,” June Carter wrote in the notes on Johnny’s 2000 box set, Love, God, Murder, reported Town and Country Mag. “Those black eyes that shone like agates… He had a command of his performance that I had never before. Just a guitar and a bass and a gentle kind of presence that made not only me, but whole audiences become his followers." And the sparks turned into flames.
Their hit duet, Ring of Fire, only skyrocketed their popularity as a celebrity couple. The inspiration?
“I realized that oh my Lord! I think I’m falling in love with Johnny Cash, and this is the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. It is like I’m in a ring of fire, and I’m never coming out. I’m going down, down to the bottom of this thing. It’s going to kill me, because I would never have the nerve to tell him, nor do I want to tell him, nor do I want anybody to even know I’ve got these feelings," said June.
Throughout the 1960s, Johnny had been leading troubled times. With a serious addiction to drugs and alcohol, his marriage to first wife, Vivian Cash, was crumbling under his frequent absences, infidelities, and addictions and he was known to cancel or simply miss concert appearances. While June was battling addictions of her own, Johnny stated an incident that had him swearing off pills.
Their son John Carter Cash's mentioned an incident in his book, Anchored in Love: The Life and Legacy of June Carter Cash. He recalled being told that Johnny had wandered into a cave on the Tennessee River prepared to die only to find God and return from the cave to find June and his mother waiting with open arms.
By this time, both Johnny and June were single after their divorces to their respective partners. Initially, though Johnny had proposed several times, June had refused as she did not want to get involved with someone who had such a severe drug addiction. However, finally, she did accept after one of the flashiest proposals he had presented her with - one that was set in 1968 on stage in the middle of a concert in London in front of 7,000 fans.
The couple always supported each other. "I’ve always walked along right by his side, and he’s always supported everything I do," said June according to Fame 10. They would even leave little love notes around. However, it wasn't always so smooth. From stories of endless cycles of rehab, near-death experiences, and interventions to affairs and paranoia, the two had their own demons.
Johnny's addictions and affair with June's sister when she was pregnant with their son John wasn't the only thing that added to June's paranoia.
John even mentioned that his childhood was filled with verbal abuses exchanged between his parents. June and Johnny both struggled with addiction and were in many ways enablers to one another.
Yet, they learned to forgive each other for the mistakes they each made. For them, the bond that they had created was one they valued and so for 35 years, they stayed strong. When June passed away on 15 May 2003, just a few months later, Johnny too passed away. They were a couple riddled with faults but the one thing that kept them going was the unconditional love they had for each other.