Larger Than Life And All The More Human For It

February 22 of this year would have been a red letter day in the life of an American icon. On this day in 1986, forty years ago, Johnny Cash proposed on stage to June Carter.  If you believe that some people or loves can be larger than life, that moment and their life was destined to be.

He was driven through much of his musical career by personal demons that nearly consumed him through alcohol and pills.  He was saved by his faith and his love that was more than a love, June Carter Cash.

The two had met at the Grand Old Opry thirteen years earlier, but in a scene replayed in the film “Walk The Line” he impetuously proposed to her onstage together in London, Ontario.  She said yes and, by all accounts, they remained madly in love until she passed on May 15, 2003.  He continued to record largely songs of loneliness until his death, four months later on September 12.

So strong was the legend of their love that on the morning of Johnny Cash’s death, Shelby Lynne wrote her haunting tribute, “Johnny Met June.”

Got some news today from the radio man
He spoke the words softly and as somber as he can
The world stood still and the sky opened up
made my way to fill up my coffee cup.
Then it occurred to me as the daylight sky shone blue
Today’s the day that
Johnny met June.

He waited a while he knew that he would
He was gonna hang around here for as long a he could
The days went by and hours idle passed
He was never sure just how long he would last
But there’s not much love in a lonely room
Today’s the day that
Johnny met June

Hey my darlin’ hey my sweet
I’ve waited on the day that I knew we would meet.
Hey my sun, hey my moon
Today’s the day that
Johnny met June.

Now were starting over it’s the place that we are
You look more than pretty underneath all the stars
Love, love is a burning thing
Oh how I still love to hear you sing
And everything we ever heard about heaven is true
Today’s the day that Johnny met June
Today’s the day that Johnny met June.

Sam Phillips of Sun Records was quoted as saying that Elvis Presley “couldn’t hold a candle to Johnny Cash”.   His stature and voice, both almost larger than life, were equalled only by the humanity he wore on his perpetually black sleeve and the sparkle in his eyes for June.

Somewhere along the way, I came to think of Cash as a modern day Samson.  The two became legendary for their appetites and their lawlessness.  At the same time they incongruously loved and were loved by God, traits that perhaps only truly knowing God can explain.  Both knew true loves, though one ruined and the other saved their partner.  Cash’s personal strength and honesty certainly brought down the columns of Nashville’s church of Country music.  There were those that did not love him, but all were in awe of him.

I suppose I could go on, but my story began about love, and there is no better place to end.  If there is true love, as I believe, Johnny and June knew it.  I am glad to say I know it too.




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