The Sad Reality Of Johnny Cash’s First Public Appearance After June Carter’s Passing

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Photo credit: YouTube/folkarchivist
Photo credit: YouTube/folkarchivist

They had one of the best love stories in the country music industry. Johnny Cash and June Carter met backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956 while they were still both married to other people.

Even though they weren’t available, their love was almost immediately unquestionable. They would, over time, divorce from their spouses, and after numerous unsuccessful proposals, June eventually agreed to marry Johnny in 1968.

As a result of their deep romantic relationship, their musical chemistry was off the charts. The music they wrote alongside one another turned into powerhouse tunes, and seeing them perform together was like watching a magic show.

Johnny and June were married for 35 years, until her death on May 13, 2003. June died from complications after her heart-valve replacement surgery. Johnny had been holding her hand at the time.

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About two months after her passing, Johnny fearlessly went up on stage to perform a 30-minute show in Hilton, Virginia.

Even though he was wheelchair bound, he insisted on walking to the stage himself. Dressed up in all black, obviously, he sat at the center of the stage with his guitar in hand.

The concert soon started with his signature line, “Hi, I’m Johnny Cash.” His voice was deeper and more gravelly than ever before.

He first sang “Folsom Prison Blues,” and then “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” The audience of 700 was having fun every minute of his performance, and you could hear their satisfaction in their applause and regards.

“I don’t really know what to say about how I feel tonight, being up here without her,” he said to the audience. After this statement, they went quiet. You could actually hear all of his feelings for June in his voice, and see it right on his face.

He carried on, performing a song his lovely June had written for him, entitled “Ring of Fire.” Then, the performance ended with a song he hadn’t played live for about 25 years: “Understand Your Man.”

This performance was indeed a memorable event for two remarkable reasons. It was his first performance after June’s death, and it also turned out to be his last live performance ever.

Johnny died on September 12, 2003, due to complications with diabetes. Many experts have suggested that his health problems were made worse by his broken heart over June’s death only four months earlier.

Reminisce about Johnny Cash’s final live performance below.

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