June Carter Cash, the Grammy-winning scion of one of country music’s pioneering families and the wife of country giant Johnny Cash, has died of complications from heart surgery. She was 73.
She died yesterday at a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. with her husband of 35 years and family members at her bedside, said her manager Lou Robin.
She had been critically ill after surgery earlier this month to replace a heart valve.
A singer, songwriter, musician, actress and author, June Carter Cash performed with her husband on record and on stage, doing songs like Jackson and If I Were a Carpenter, which won Grammy awards in 1967 and 1970, respectively.
Their duets included It Ain’t Me Babe in 1964 and If I Had a Hammer in 1972.
“People talk about Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette when it comes to pioneering women in country music. But they very seldom mention June, somewhat because she got married to Johnny Cash,” said Ed Benson, executive director of the Country Music Association.
“I think people should think of her more often when they think of the pioneering women in country music.”
She was co-writer of her husband’s 1963 hit Ring of Fire, which was about falling in love with Cash. In his autobiography, Johnny Cash described how his wife stuck with him through his years of amphetamine abuse.
“June said she knew me – knew the kernel of me, deep inside, beneath the drugs and deceit and despair and anger and selfishness, and knew my loneliness,” he wrote. “She said she could help me. If she found my pills, she flushed them down the toilet. And find them she did - she searched for them, relentlessly.”
June Carter Cash described her husband as “probably the most unusual, fine, unselfish person I’ve known.”
“There’s a lot of power to him,” she said then. “I’ve seen him on shows with people with a number one record or a lot of number one records, but when John walks on that stage, the rest of ’em might as well leave.”
Johnny and June Carter Cash had a son, John Carter Cash, in 1970. She was also the mother of country singer Carlene Carter from a previous marriage, and singer Rosanne Cash is her stepdaughter.