Over Johnny Cash
You might consider Johnny Cash the original gangster. He sang a song about killing a man "just to watch him die" long before young men began to wear big pants and cap their teeth in gold. His trademark baritone growl and disdainful sneer were the crown and scepter he bore as the king of outlaw country music. Cash's unique sound wasn't complex by any means. His Southern Gothic-tinged narratives and lighthearted country songs contained similar elements to Woody Guthrie's simple ditties. However, nobody but Cash could sing those songs with the burning, heartfelt fever that has made him one of the most influential people in country music. Originally, he wanted to make gospel music after finishing up a Korean War tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force. But after releasing his first single on Sun Records ("Cry Cry Cry" backed with "Hey Porter"), it was perfectly clear that he was a country singer. Cash's music has never strayed from what he knew best: rock 'n' roll's rebellion, folk's painfully autobiographical sensibility, and country music's lovelorn longing. The Man In Black passed away in Nashville, Tenn., on September 12, 2003, due to complications brought on by diabetes. He survived his beloved wife, June Carter Cash, by four months.