When looking into Johnny Cash’s guitar case, you might think to find his favorite Martin D-35 guitar, polished in a mysterious black hue. Despite his past drug use, you might not think you’d find hundreds of unprescribed pills instead. Cash was arrested on October 5th, 1965 by border customs officials after they found the drugs in his possession. Earlier in the year, Cash was sued by the government for starting a forest fire when his car caught flame, and he had to pay $82,001 to the government. He was suspected of being under the influence, but was not arrested for it.
The October 5th arrest was his first of many drug busts, and really brought to light for the public how Johnny suffered from addiction to prescription drugs like amphetamines and barbiturates. At this time in history, mental health issues were still a sort of taboo topic, so the public didn’t exactly dwell on it and just expected more music from Cash. These arrests fed into a “romantic outlaw” image for Cash, when really they were affecting him deeply and tearing his marriage apart.
Despite this outlaw image, Cash never actually served a prison sentence, and all his arrests were never more than a night in jail. He was often caught bribing law enforcement, but the last time, in 1967, it was proven unsuccessful. That night in jail Cash was given a stern talking to by the Sheriff and he later said it probably saved his life.
Many famous artists suffer from addiction, but they are never really highlighted in pop culture. Johnny Cash was lucky enough to beat his addiction and continue pursuing music long into his later life. Others unfortunately haven’t been successful in defeating the detrimental disease, like Jimi Hendrix, or more recently the late Amy Winehouse. As artists, the darkness they experience is frequently their muse, and while us listeners can enjoy it and even relate to it, we may never know the true demons that can take over until, commonly, it’s too late.