Cindy Cash reflects on her famous father

Daddy's girl
2010-08-27T00:00:00Z Cindy Cash reflects on her famous fatherBy Joanne Fox - Sioux City Journal
August 27, 2010 12:00 am  • 

To the world, he was the Man in Black.

To daughter Cindy Cash, legendary country singer Johnny Cash was Dad.

"I was a daddy's girl," she confessed. "My husband told me one time Dad said: 'Looking at Cindy is like looking in the mirror.'"

Cash characterized her father as a different person than the one fans worshipped on stage.

"He was gentle, loving, uncritical, humble, deeply spiritual, a little shy and very, very, funny, funny, funny," she said. "He could make me laugh in the middle of a crisis with his very dry, off-the-wall sense of humor."

The third youngest of the four daughters of Johnny Cash and his first wife Vivian Liberto, Cindy Cash said it was years before she realized her father was a singing star.

"As a child, my mother protected us from all of the celebrity-ism," she said. "My first memory of his being popular was us in a limo, leaving a performance and people climbing on the car. I was hysterically crying. I didn't realize they wanted to love him, to touch him. I remember being cradled under my dad's arm in the back of the car. I realized I had to share him with the whole world."

Seeing one's father on television would normally be a moment of excitement. It turned into a moment of terror for Cash one day.

"When I was about 5 years old, I remember seeing Dad on a TV video, with the song, 'Don't take your guns to town,'" she said. "He was killed in the video and I didn't realize it was a video. Mom had a hard time calming me down."

Johnny Cash as a celebrity didn't hit home for his daughter until her parents divorced in 1966.

"That's when I realized, it was not a normal life," said Cash, who was about 7 at the time.

Johnny and Vivian's marriage lasted from 1954 to 1966. In 1968, Johnny married June Carter Cash.

"When I was in my 30s, I asked my mom what happened to the marriage. She never shared anything negative about my father," Cash said. "Dad would not talk about it at all. If I questioned him, he would change the subject."

Cash believed her father's hectic life on the road and his ultimate addiction to pills may have "turned him to look elsewhere," outside his marriage for solace.

"I did get close to June eventually," she said. "June had the sweetest personality. I never heard her raise her voice. And we laughed a lot together. She had a great sense of humor."

Cash has never seen the movie "Walk the Line" which opened in 2005 and featured Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny, Reese Witherspoon as June and Ginnifer Goodwin as Vivian.

"No one spoke to any of us sisters about the movie during production, so I had no interest in it," she said of the movie in which John Carter Cash -- only son of Johnny and June -- appeared, but whose scene was deleted in the on-screen version. "People call it Dad and June's love story, but the song 'I Walk the Line' was dedicated to my mother."

Cash said few people understood that Johnny and Vivian had their own love story.

"We have over 1,000 letters from a three-year period that my dad wrote to my mom while he was in the service," she said. "It was clear they were madly in love. I think mom stayed brokenhearted over the end of their marriage until the day she died. And I think Dad always loved and cared about her."

Originally, Cash followed in her father's footsteps and pursued a career as a singer, moving to Nashville when she was 19.

"I did perform with Dad and I did travel with a group called Next Generation which was me, Georgette Jones (daughter of Tammy Wynette and George Jones), Patsy Lynn (daughter of Loretta Lynn) and Cathy Twitty (daughter of Conway Twitty)," she said. "That was in the late '80s and was great fun and a great learning experience for me. But I haven't performed in at least 10 years."

In a six-year period, Cash lost four of the most significant people in her life. June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash both died in 2003. Her mother Vivian died in 2005. Cash's husband, Eddie Panetta, was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2009. She previously had been married to country singer Marty Stuart from 1983-88.

"It's been very difficult. It's like prolonged grief," she said, holding tightly to her emotions, "especially losing my husband, my best friend who knew my soul. I was very blessed to have him in my life."

Cash, 51, enjoys traveling to entertainment events which feature her father, including the special salute to Johnny Cash, part of the 35th Annual National Old-Time Country & Bluegrass Festival and Contest in Le Mars, Iowa.

"I would never say no to an invitation that honored my dad," she said. "It's such a blessing for me to be a part of such a tribute. It keeps my dad alive and also my mother alive for me and that's really important to me -- to keep Dad's memory alive."

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