Remembering June Carter Cash

The singer died on this day in 2003, but her legacy will live on forever.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

May 15, 2023


4:37 pm

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June Carter Cash; Photo Courtesy June Carter Cash, Facebook

June Carter Cash, born Valerie June Carter to Ezra and Maybelle Carter, lived the majority of her life in the limelight. She grew up as one of three daughters in southwestern Virginia and learned about the power of music from a very young age. It all began at 10 years old when she stepped in front of a mic for the first time alongside the famed band, The Carter Family. 

Born On June 23, 1929

From this moment on, Carter continued to gain momentum both with her family members and in her solo career. She developed her skills while singing in the band and learning to play a plethora of instruments including the harmonica, banjo, guitar, and autoharp.

Soon after The Carter Family released their self-titled, debut album on Liberty Records in 1962, the young female songstress acquired her first solo deal. While her name was put on the map through her time with the band, Carter went on to develop an incredibly successful career as a solo artist and was often seen working alongside two of her three husbands, Carl Smith and Johnny Cash. Both Smith and Cash will forever be considered some of the biggest names in the genre, but her second husband, Edwin “Rip” Nix, did not work in music. Instead, he held a career as a football player, racecar driver, and police officer.

Passed Away On May 15, 2003

When Carter died in Nashville, TN, on May 15, 2003, she was 73 years old and committed to her third and last husband, Cash. The cause of her death was related to complications following a heart valve replacement surgery. 

The couple tied the knot in 1968, commemorating Carter’s third marriage and Cash’s second. Eventually, they became known as Johnny and June for their powerhouse vocals and unstoppable chemistry that can still be felt throughout their music. After their initial meeting, which took place backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, they started to perform together on stage and through recordings in the studio, even before they were married. 

Carter served as a co-writer on one of Cash’s signature songs, “Ring of Fire,” which stayed at the top of the charts for seven weeks. They’re responsible for curating plenty of hits alongside “Ring of Fire” including their GRAMMY-winning songs, “If I Were A Carpenter” and “Jackson.”

Johnny & June

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She also won a few GRAMMYs on her own, making for a total of five with her recording of “Keep on the Sunny Side,” and her albums Press On and Wildwood Flower.

While Carter stayed busy with her booming career and maintaining her relationships, she also welcomed several children into the world. Before finalizing her divorce from Smith, she gave birth to one daughter, Rebecca Carlene, who has gone on to become a singer/songwriter of her own right and in doing so, has continued to carry on her family’s legacy in country music. 

June Carter Cash; Photo Courtesy June Carter Cash, Facebook
June Carter Cash; Photo Courtesy June Carter Cash, Facebook

Once Carter married Nix in 1957, she brought her second daughter into the world – Rosie Nix Adams. Rosie passed a few months after her mother, in October of 2003. According to autopsy reports, she died from exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning. 

In 1970, Johnny and June had a son together named John Carter Cash. John has also kept the family name alive within the music industry as he currently works as a record producer and singer/songwriter. 

A Celebrated Artist

Along with all the joys and rewards that came with being a mother, Carter received some of the highest honors in country music for her impact on the genre. She earned the title of Woman and Mother of the Year by Youth for Christ International, was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 20.

As her kids continue to carry on her memories and talent, Carter will forever be remembered for her many feats as a renowned singer, songwriter, actress, comedian, author, musician, evangelist, philanthropist, mother and wife. 

Her days were spent immersed in the music business through performances alongside fellow stars Hank Williams and Elvis Presley. The Virginia native also studied the arts of theater at New York’s mythic Neighborhood Studio and hung out with the likes of Eartha Kitt, Patsy Cline and Ruth Graham. 

Even after her passing, June Carter Cash has continued to be considered as one of the greatest contributions to her generation of music. Each day, she inspires new and established artists who strive to create country music in a way that touches their listeners just as Carter did with her music. 

Her light blue coffin was buried at Hendersonville First Baptist Church in Tennessee where approximately 2,000 family members, friends and fans gathered together to celebrate her life and career. Carter was honored through kind words, shared memories and performances by Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Larry Gatlin of The Gatlin Brothers and the Oak Ridge Boys.

Johnny Cash was also in attendance alongside Hank Williams Jr, Kris Kristofferson, Trisha Yearwood and Ricky Skaggs.

Cash, unfortunately, passed the same year on September 12, two months following his final performance. The lovebirds are now survived by their son, John, and Carter’s daughter, Rebecca.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.