Known to many only as the wife of musical legend Johnny, June Carter was also a star in her own right. And in conveying her growing attachment to him in music some five years before they married, she provided JC with his biggest hit – “Ring of Fire”. June died today in 2003.
Singer Valerie June Carter passed away at the age of 73 from complications following heart surgery. Born in Hiltons, Virginia, USA, June grew up as part of one country music dynasty – The Carter Family – and would go on to form another with her husband of 35 years, Johnny Cash.
Performing with her siblings and mother in an incarnation of the Carter Family until 1943, June then found her way to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry by 1950 with Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. Playing both the autoharp and singing with the group, June also added a vaudeville element with hillbilly parody sketches.
Marrying country singer Carl Smith in 1952, she then divorced him and remarried Edwin Nix five years later. Embarking on a US tour with Johnny Cash in 1961, he commented that “We fell madly in love and we worked together all the time, toured together all the time, and when the tour was over we both had to go home to other people. It hurt.”
Their artistic liaison produced hits including “It Ain’t Me Babe”, “Jackson” and “Guitar Pickin’ Man”, while following her divorce from Nix in 1966, June and Johnny married two years later. A regular guest on Johnny’s successful TV show, June was also to the fore when Cash recorded his ground-breaking albums behind bars in both Folsom and San Quentin prisons.
Recording frequently alongside her husband, June also maintained a solo career, having first entered the US Country Top Ten in 1956 with a cover of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. What proved to be her final album was released to favourable reviews in 2003, “Wildwood Flower” harking back to Carter Family heritage with renditions of old favourites including “Keep on the Sunny Side.”
June raised seven children from her three marriages, including singer Carlene Cash. Stepdaughter and singer Roseanne Cash meanwhile described June as her “second mother”. She was buried in Hendersonville, Tennessee with Sheryl Crow and Emmylou Harris among those paying musical tribute. By then wheelchair bound, June’s husband Johnny attended.
His comment that, “I can’t envision living without her” proved to be prescient however and he was dead within four months, laid to rest alongside her.
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And here’s some footage of June in action: