Why Did Johnny Cash Disinherit His Daughters? Explained

Ask any country music lover who the most iconic vocalist of the genre is, and chances are they’ll reply Johnny Cash.

Johnny Cash is one of the most influential country music musicians of all time, well known for hit songs such as “Cry, Cry, Cry,” “Ring of Fire,” and “Get Rhythm.” 

Though he sadly passed away, drama couldn’t leave him!! A legal battle ensued once he died, and we are here to uncover precisely that. 

All About Johnny Cash 

johnny cash

Who Is Johnny Cash?

Johnny Cash (born February 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Arkansas, United States—died September 12, 2003, in Nashville, Tennessee) was an American singer-songwriter whose work expanded the breadth of country and western music.

Early Life 

Cash grew up listening to rural South music—hymns, folk ballads, and songs of work and lament—but he learned to play guitar and began writing songs during his military duty in Germany in the early 1950s. 

After serving in the military, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, to pursue a musical career. 

Cash began his career with the Tennessee Two (later Tennessee Three), and appearances at county fairs and other local events led to an audition with Sun Records’ Sam Phillips, who signed Cash in 1955.

Success Story 

He had an early shot at success, when his music started getting popular among a small niche. His early songs were a hit and quietly became popular among many. 

Cash’s fame began to diminish in the 1960s as he fought a drug addiction that would plague him for the rest of his life. 

He finally sought therapy at the prompting of June Carter of the Carter Family, with whom he had worked since 1961; the two married in 1968. 

Cash’s career was back on track by the late 1960s, and a broader audience soon recognized him.

Relationships And Family 

Johnny Cash married Vivian Liberto, with whom he had exchanged hundreds of love letters while serving in the Air Force in West Germany, for the first time in 1954. Roseanna, Kathy, Cindy, and Tara were their four daughters.

Johnny Cash married Vivian Liberto
Johnny Cash and Vivian Liberto

Johnny began to misuse drugs and alcohol after becoming a singing superstar, had relationships with other women, and was frequently on tour. As a result, in 1966, Vivian filed for divorce. 

Later that year, in 1986, Johnny married June Carter, a fellow country singer with whom he had fallen in love during a tour.

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Johnny And June 

Johnny And June 
Johnny Cash And June 

After marrying June, Johnny became a stepfather to June’s two children, Carlene and Rosie. Johnny and June Cash welcomed their first child, John Carter Cash, in 1970. 

Johnny and June were blissfully married until they died in 2004, a year before the film Walk the Line premiere.

Johnny Cash Controversy With Children 

Where Did It All Begin? 

It all started at the premiere of Walk The Line. Walk the Line follows Johnny Cash from his childhood in the cotton fields of Arkansas to his time in the spotlight.

Kathy Cash, Johnny, and Vivian’s second daughter stormed out of the Walk the Line family screening at least five times, according to Fox News.

While she believed that Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon’s performances deserved two Oscars, she felt that the film portrayed her mother, Vivian, unfairly.

Kathy also stated that she believed the film missed heartfelt sequences with Johnny and his children, as well as depicting the agony that the singer’s substance misuse and eventual divorce caused his children.

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The Portrayal Of Vivian In The Movie 

Portrayal Of Vivian In The Movie 

Vivian is represented negatively in Walk the Line in comparison to June. Vivian, played by Ginnifer Goodwin, is revealed to be envious and possessive of Johnny as he begins to succeed. It also demonstrates her lack of support for his job and her expectations of him.

Johnny and Vivian have a violent argument near the end of the film, which makes Vivian appear insane and insensitive to her ex-husband’s agony.

Children’s Reaction To The Movie 

Roseanne Cash found the film upsetting.

Kathy Cash was not the only one of Johnny Cash’s daughters who found the movie complex. According to different sources, his eldest daughter, Roseanne, refused to attend the premiere, preferring to watch Walk the Line with her daughter at home.

Roseanne later stated that she found the film “painful” to see because “it had the three most damaging events of her childhood: her parents’ divorce, her father’s drug addiction, and something else she couldn’t talk about’. 

Response Of John Carter Cash 

The only child of Johnny and June Cash, John Carter Cash, worked as an executive producer for Walk the Line. In reaction to his half-sisters Roseanne and Kathy’s criticism, John said he knows where they’re coming from.

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Did Johnny Cash Disinherit His Daughter? 

While he did leave good money for his daughters, too, there was a clear bias in the distribution of wealth. 

The earnings from Johnny Cash’s songs, most notably Ring of Fire, went to his son John Carter Cash, who is in charge of all decisions about his father’s estate. He once said- “my father started something in motion within his lifetime, with integrity, heart, purpose, and morality in his decision-making in how he ran his business,” John told The Nashville Ledger in 2012. Since his father’s death, it has been John’s responsibility to keep Johnny Cash’s business running.

The Legal Battle Over Ring Of Fire 

The roots of the “Ring of Fire” song are a source of contention. According to the Irish Examiner, Johnny Cash informed Vivian Cash that he gave June “half credit” on the song because he felt horrible for June’s financial situation. 

According to the New York Daily News, Cash and Merle Kilgore composed the song while on a fishing vacation, but because Cash was going through a divorce at the time, he added June as a writer, so the song wouldn’t be wholly associated with him. 

Regardless of the song’s true beginnings, Johnny Cash, Merle Kilgore, and June Cash are officially credited writers.

What Did Johnny Cash Leave His Children?

According to his will, after a lengthy and successful music career, Cash left lots of money for his son but little for his daughters. 

According to the Nashville Ledger, he finalized his estate arrangements immediately before his death. He’d acquired a wealth of $60 million to $100 million. Since then, the funds have increased to as much as $300 million.

The family feud is around one song in particular, Ring of Fire. The song was written by June Carter Cash, Johnny Cash, and Merle Kilgore and was published in 1963, five years before June and Johnny married. 

Decades later, it’s still a contention among the Cash children. June and Johnny’s other children were barred from receiving royalties from the song since they only had one biological kid, John Carter Cash. Cash’s four children from his previous marriage, Rosanne, Cindy, Tara, and Kathleen, received no royalties from the song.

Johnny left $1 million to each of his four daughters in his testament. That, however, pales in comparison to the continuous flow of royalties earned by the successful country song. Furthermore, following Cash’s death, fans kept playing the song, raking in millions more in royalties.

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Where Are Johnny Cash’s Children Now

Johnny Cash’s Children

Rosanne Cash 

Rosanne, like her father, grew up to be a musician. Johnny Cash included one of her songs, “Love Has Lost Again,” on his 1976 album “One Piece at a Time.” It was Rosanne’s first professionally recorded composition.

Rosanne acknowledged that she only sometimes envisioned herself as a musician. She grew up believing that becoming famous was the worst thing one could do. 

She’s been receiving prizes left and right since then. She won her first Grammy in 1985 for her song “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me.” Rosanne received three Grammy Awards in 2015. She has gotten 12 Grammy nominations in all. 

Rosanne was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame as well. She was awarded the 2021 Edward MacDowell Medal for her great contributions to American culture.

Kathy Cash

Kathy Title has been married to Jimmy Tittle since November 24, 1982, and they have three children. Kathy featured in “What’s the Matter with Gerald?” in 2016, a drama-comedy film written by her son, Dustin Tittle, and son-in-law, Matt Riddlehoover.

Cindy Cash

When she was only 16, she sang her first duet with her father as part of the event. She also performed alongside the country great at his farewell show. 

Cindy was also a member of the group ‘The Next Generation,’ which included the daughters of other country musicians, like Conway Twitty’s daughter Cathy Twitty, Loretta Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn, and George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s daughter Georgette Jones.

John Carter Cash 

John has always been interested in music. He is a singer-songwriter, although he has spent most of his time working as a record producer, beginning with his mother’s album “Press On.” It received a Grammy Award in 1999. 

He has also written songs for Loretta Lynn, Brooks & Dunn, George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, and many more country musicians. He has produced five Grammy Award-winning tracks in total.

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Final Thoughts

Now you know in detail what happened behind the scenes. Like many celebrities, Johnny Cash also made deadly estate planning blunders, putting his heirs in a difficult situation. Nonetheless, all the children have moved on now with their lives.