June Carter Cash, the Grammy-winning singer who was born to one country legend and married to another, died Wednesday at 73 due to complications from heart surgery a week ago, her manager announced. Her husband of 35 years, Johnny Cash, was at her side at Nashville’s Baptist Hospital.
The daughter of Maybelle Carter, of the pioneering Carter Family ensemble, June Carter performed as a child with the act, along with her sisters Anita and Helen. As an adult, she became a country singer and composer in her own right. Cash met her in 1956 at the Grand Ole Opry and said ”I’m going to marry you someday.” (”OK,” she replied.) It would be 12 years before he made good on his pledge, but the two toured together for seven years before that. In 1963, she cowrote ”Ring of Fire” with Merle Kilgore, a song about her falling in love with the troubled Cash; it became one of her future husband’s biggest hits. Cash credited June with getting him off amphetamines and helping him become a born-again Christian. Married since 1968, they had one son, John Carter Cash. (She had two other children, including singer Carlene Carter, by two previous marriages.)
June and Johnny won Grammys for their duets ”Jackson” and ”If I Were a Carpenter.” She won another Grammy for ”Press On,” her 1999 acoustic album of autobiographical tunes. She also acted occasionally, most recently in Robert Duvall’s 1997 film ”The Apostle.”
Johnny Cash, 71, has been in frail health himself in recent years. Family friend Kris Kristofferson told the Associated Press the couple had ”been partners in life for as long as I’ve known them – always in love, and always there for each other. I know how much she means to him. It’s the hardest thing he’ll ever have to face.”