Jennifer Nix on June Carter Cash’s Influence on Her Life

Photo via Jazz Guy/Flickr

In our hotel room that night, I broke out “Press On” and we took turns listening to songs on my Discman. Johnny and June’s duet “The Far Side Banks of Jordan” visibly stirred my dad, and at song’s end he said, “I wonder which one will go first. The other won’t last long after that.” A room service tray holding two plates relieved of pecan pie sat on the bed between us—I remember that detail because it was the last time I was alone with him. Three months after he walked me down the little white church’s aisle, and just three days short of a new millennium, my 57-year-old father collapsed by the Christmas tree in our cottage and died of congestive heart failure…

…I first set out to write a tidy piece about my love for June’s voice because it is equated with some of my greatest happiness, and with pretty much the whole world I shared in celebrating the popular myth about the love between Johnny and June. After digging into the reality of that love and life, I am boundlessly inspired by the real woman’s story and my heart is open wider. Anchored in Love showed me June not only had to deal with Johnny’s continual addictions, but she saw her son and two daughters, Carlene Carter (from her first marriage to Carl Smith) and Rosie Nix Adams, struggle with alcohol and drugs, which also led to various estrangements. That they found roads to rapprochement before her death gives me hope and some courage to try to find a way back to my mother. I am a writer, and after five years of impasse, this is how it had to start for me.

—From “Pressing On,” an essay by writer Jennifer Nix about the impact of June Carter Cash’s music on her life, and the parallels between Carter’s family struggles and her own–originally published at The Rumpus. It’s now included in Here She Comes Now: Women in Music Who Have Changed Our Lives, a new anthology edited by Jeff Gordinier and Marc Weingarten, which includes essays by Rosie Schaap, Elissa Schappell and many others.

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