In this country throwback, the late, great Johnny Cash performed for the final time. On July 5, 2003, Cash performed for audiences in a 30-minute set at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia.
Cash was 71-years-old and physically frail during the performance. Members of the band helped the country legend from his wheelchair to the stage and positioned a mic in front of him. “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” he said with the same bravado and showmanship that made him famous. “I’m glad to see you folks. Thanks for coming to see our show.”
Cash played through a rendition of some of his most iconic songs including “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk the Line.” At times, his hands shook or he paused to cough. But Cash maintained the grit and steely reserve of a retired cowboy. He dedicated a soulful “Ring of Fire” to the memory of his wife June Carter Cash.
Johnny Cash dedicated his performance to his late wife June Carter Cash.
June had passed away a few weeks prior in May of that year. Cash and Carter married for over 35 years. According to Country Living, Cash met June while singing back up for Elvis Presley at the Grand Ole Opry. Cash was married at the time. But he fell in love with June, divorcing his first wife. Cash proposed to her on-stage during a performance with 7,000 people watching.
“The spirit of June Carter overshadows me tonight with the love she had for me and the love I have for her,” Cash said during the performance. “We connect somewhere between here and Heaven. She came down for a short visit, I guess, from Heaven, to visit with me tonight, to give me courage and inspiration, like she always has.
“She’s never been one for me except courage and inspiration,” he continued. “I thank God for June Carter. I love her with all my heart.”
Cash closed his performance, singing “Understand Your Man.” At the time, Cash revealed he hadn’t played that song in 25 years. Audiences gave Cash a standing ovation.
On Sept. 12, 2003, Cash passed away at the age of 71.