85 years ago today, Johnny Cash was born. The American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and author was widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century and one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide. Although primarily remembered as a country music icon, his genre-spanning songs embraced rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel. This crossover appeal won Cash a rare honor: multiple inductions in the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame. WATCH the young Cash (dressed in white) perform his song, Get Rhythm… (1932)
Known for his calm, deep bass-baritone voice, his rebelliousness, and free prison concerts, his trademark look later earned him the nickname “The Man in Black.” He traditionally began his concerts with the simple “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” and featured his signature songs, “I Walk the Line”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Ring of Fire”, and “A Boy Named Sue”.
MORE Good News on this Date:
- The Grand Canyon was proclaimed a National Park by the US Congress (1919)
- The Grand Teton National Park was created (1929)
- National Public Radio was founded in the US as a non-profit network to produce news and cultural programming, leading to 900 public radio stations today serving high-quality shows like Morning Edition and All Things Considered. (1970)
- United Nations proclaimed the vernal equinox as Earth Day (1971)
- The Church of England voted for ordination of women priests (1987)
- Free Nicaraguan elections toppled the Sandinistas (1990)
- Tim Berners-Lee introduced the world’s first web browser (1991)
- Kuwait was liberated by 30 Gulf War Allied countries after 208 days of Iraqi occupation, as Saddam Hussein withdrew his troops (1991)
- The US lifted a 23-year ban on travel to Libya (2004)
- Egypt‘s President Mubarak ordered multi-candidate elections to be legal (2005)
And, on this day in 1916, Jackie Gleason–the comedian, actor, and musician whose style and characters grew out of his childhood in Brooklyn, New York–was born. He was known for his brash, physical comedy style, exemplified by his character Ralph Kramden in the beloved television series The Honeymooners. He was 8 when his father left the family and 19 when his mother died, but he soon was earning money in pool halls and on stage as an entertainer.
His self-produced TV variety show, The Jackie Gleason Show, earned the second-highest ratings in America in 1954-1955. Among his notable film roles were Minnesota Fats in the Academy Award-winning 1961 drama The Hustler (co-starring with Paul Newman), and Buford T. Justice in the Smokey and the Bandit series.
He was an amateur musician who produced more than a dozen romantic best-selling “mood music” LPs. The band leader for several of them, Bobby Hackett, said, “Jackie knows a lot more about music than people give him credit for. I have seen him conduct a 60-piece orchestra and detect one discordant note in the brass section. He would immediately stop the music and locate the wrong note. It always amazed the professional musicians how a guy who technically did not know one note from another could do that. And he was never wrong.” Nearly all of Gleason’s albums are still available and have been re-released on compact disks.
Watch a tribute from ABC News following his death in 1987 at age 71…