Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash were married for 35 years
The songstress began collaborating with Johnny after the two first met in 1956 at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville — at the time, they were both married to other people. They went on to wed in 1968 and recorded multiple albums together.
The couple welcomed a son named John Carter Cash in 1970. June already had two children, Carlene and Rosie, from her two previous marriages, and Johnny had four children, Rosanne, Tara, Kathy and Cindy, with his former wife, Vivian Liberto.
Related: Johnny Cash's Life in Photos
June and Johnny were married for 35 years, until June's death in 2003 — one of her final public appearances was in her husband’s music video for the song “Hurt.”
Paramount+ released the documentary June in January 2024, which explored the life of the singer, including her relationship with Johnny, who was seemingly quite romantic.
In a 1994 letter, June's husband wrote her a sweet message for her birthday, per Rolling Stone. “You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. We got old and got used to each other," Johnny wrote. "Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit ... But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met.”
So who was Johnny Cash's wife? Here is everything to know about the country star June Carter Cash and her relationship with the musician.
She grew up in Virginia
June was born and raised in Maces Spring, Virginia. Her parents, Maybelle and Ezra Carter, were also musicians, and June performed in the Carter Family Band throughout her childhood.
The singer originally went by her first name, Valerie, but around 1950, she dropped the name in favor of her now well-known moniker.
She met Johnny in 1956
June and Johnny were first introduced backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. At the time, they were both married to other people, and June would go on to marry her second husband Edwin Nix the following year.
According to the 2002 biography Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? Johnny’s first words to June were, “Hello, I'm Johnny Cash and I'm going to marry you someday.” In a clip featured in the 2014 documentary The Winding Stream, June said that she felt a strong connection to Johnny from the beginning. The two began touring together, and June wrote the song “Ring of Fire” for Johnny about their budding relationship.
“I realized that oh my Lord! I think I'm falling in love with Johnny Cash, and this is the most painful thing I've ever gone through in my life. It is like I'm in a ring of fire, and I'm never coming out," June said in the documentary. "It's going to kill me, because I would never have the nerve to tell him, nor do I want to tell him, nor do I want anybody to even know I've got these feelings.”
She was married twice before she tied the knot with Johnny
June was married to her first husband, Carl Smith, from 1952 to 1956. The country singer married again in 1957 to the former soccer player Nix — the pair divorced in 1966.
Because both she and Johnny were married to other people when they met and began to fall in love with each other, June told Rolling Stone in 2000 that the beginning of the relationship didn’t feel good.
“It was not a convenient time for me to fall in love with him — and it wasn't a convenient time for him to fall in love with me," June said. "I was miserable, and it all came to me: I'm falling in love with somebody I have no right to fall in love with.”
She was married to Johnny for 35 years
On Feb. 22, 1968, Johnny proposed to June while they performed onstage together in Canada. The couple got married on March 1 of the same year, over 10 years after they were first introduced.
The ceremony was held in Franklin, Kentucky, just one week after Johnny proposed.
She shared one child with Johnny
June had two children and Johnny had four before they got married, and they welcomed one son together named John.
One of Johnny's daughters, Rosanne, told PEOPLE in 2019 that June was a great stepmother. “I had two really good examples from women in my life," she said. "My mom gave me this powerful sense of discipline, family, mothering and detail orientation. And June gave me this sense of expansiveness and how to live life as a performer.”
The 2005 film Walk the Line was about her and Johnny's love story
In 2020, the actress marked 15 years since the movie’s release and praised the film’s team for helping her transform into June. “Playing the role of June Carter was one of the most rewarding experiences of my lifetime," Witherspoon wrote on Instagram. "I felt completely transformed into an authentic country artist.”
She died in 2003
June died in May 2003 due to complications after heart surgery. Johnny died a few months later, in September of the same year.
CBS News reported that June's family, including Johnny, was at her side when she died. After her death, the executive director of the Country Music Association, Ed Benson, praised June and her career.
“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," he said. "I think people should think of her more often when they think of the pioneering women in country music.”
A 2024 documentary explored June’s life
Paramount+'s January 2024 documentary called June featured archival footage and detailed June's life and legacy. Executive produced by June's daughter Carlene and son John, the documentary featured several stars of country music and fans of the singer, including Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Reese Witherspoon, Dolly Parton and members of June’s family.
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