Ring of Fire (1963)

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Johnny Cash (born J. R. Cash February 26, 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas, died of complications from diabetes September 12, 2003 in Nashville, Tennessee.) He was named J. R. because his parents could only agree on his initials, not a particular name. He adopted John R. Cash as his legal name when he joined the US Air Force as a radio operator.

The Man in Black is considered one of the most influential and important American musicians of all time, known for his distinctive voice and famous introduction: "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash." Cash sold over 50 million records in his nearly 50 year career.

As Cash's popularity grew in the early 1960s, he drank heavily and became addicted to amphetamines (to stay awake during tours) and barbiturates (to fall asleep). Cash shared an apartment with fellow singer Waylon Jennings, who was also addicted to amphetamines. Friends joked about his erratic behavior, ignoring the signs of his escalating drug problem.

Though he kept having country hits, he hadn't had a US Top 20 hit since 1958's "Big River". He recorded "Ring of Fire" on March 25, 1963. He added the somewhat incongruous mariachi horn arrangement himself. (He later said that the horn part came to him in a dream.)

It was released that year on the album Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash, despite not being solely a "greatest hits" album. Six of the songs on that album became Top 20 US Country hit singles, with "Ring of Fire" achieving the biggest success on both the Country and Pop charts.

He caused a literal "ring of fire" two years later in June 1965, while camping at Los Padres National Forest in California, when a defective exhaust on Cash's trailer caused a fire that destroyed over 500 acres of forest, the foliage of three nearby mountains, and killed 49 endangered condors. He was sued by the federal government. (He paid them $82,000 in a settlement.) When the judge asked Cash why he did it, Cash said, "I didn't do it, my truck did, and it's dead, so you can't question it."

Chart position: #17 (US), #1 (US Country).

It was #1 on the US Country chart for 7 weeks in July, August, and September 1963. It was preceded at #1 by "Act Naturally" (Buck Owens) and succeeded by "Abilene" (George Hamilton IV).

The Top Ten Songs:
September 7, 1963 (US Billboard Hot Country Singles).
  1. "Ring of Fire" (Johnny Cash)
  2. "Abilene" (George Hamilton IV)
  3. "Talk Back Tremblin' Lips" (Ernest Ashworth)
  4. "Six Days On the Road" (Dave Dudley)
  5. "Guilty" (Jim Reeves)
  6. "Detroit City" (Bobby Bare)
  7. "You Comb Her Hair" (George Jones)
  8. "Act Naturally" (Buck Owens)
  9. "Sands of Gold" (Webb Pierce)
  10. "Tips of My Fingers" (Roy Clark)

Written by:
June Carter, later June Carter Cash (born June 23, 1929, died May 15, 2003) and Merle Kilgore (born August 9, 1934, died February 6, 2005.)

June was born into The Carter Family (her mother was Maybelle Carter,) a pioneering country music group, becoming a performing member in 1939. In 1950, the family became part of the Grand Ole Opry, along with accompanying guitarist Chet Atkins, where they befriended Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, to whom they were distantly related, and Johnny Cash. She also wrote such songs as "I'm a Worried Man", "If Today Were Yesterday", and "The Kneeling Drunkard's Plea".

The song was written by June (who later married Johnny Cash,) describe Carter's struggle with her love for Cash as she dealt with his alcoholism and drug addiction, hence, the Ring of Fire. (Johnny later said that June saved his life by helping him to get off of drugs.)

Merle Kilgore also wrote such songs as "Wolverton Mountain", "Johnny Reb", and "The Folk Singer".

Originally by: Anita Carter, June Carter Cash's sister, as "(Love's) Ring of Fire", in 1962.

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