Johnny Cash Dies

Johnny Cash
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He was a towering figure in American music, whose career spanned country, rock, folk, gospel and blues.

Singer Johnny Cash died early this morning at a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. He was 71.

His manager says Cash died of complications from diabetes, resulting in respiratory failure. Cash had recently been released from the same hospital, where he had spent two weeks being treated for an unspecified stomach ailment.

Cash's manager says he hopes friends and fans will pray for the Cash family to -- in his words -- "find comfort during this very difficult time."

Cash had battled a disease of the nervous system and pneumonia
in recent years.

He had dozens of hit records, including "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line," and "Sunday Morning Coming Down."

Johnny Cash launched his career in Memphis, Tennessee, performing on a radio station.

He auditioned with Sun Records, eventually recording the hit single "Hey Porter." Sun also launched the careers of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and others.

"Folsom Prison Blues" went to number-four on the country charts in 1956, and featured one of Cash's most famous lines -- "I shot a man in Reno/ just to watch him die."

Cash recorded albums celebrating the railroads and the Old West, and decrying the mistreatment of American Indians. Two of his most popular albums were recorded live at prisons. Along the way he notched 14 number-one country music hits.

Because of Cash's frequent concerts in prisons and his rowdy lifestyle early in his career, many people wrongly thought he had served prison time. He never did, though he battled addictions to pills on and off throughout his life.

He once said he never thought about fame until it came. He said it was hard to handle. He credited his wife -- singer June Carter Cash -- with helping him stay off drugs, but he suffered several relapses over the years.