Rosanne Cash‘s first paying gig as a singer was with her dad, country legend Johnny Cash. “When I was a teenager, he took me and my sisters on the road, and we would go out at the end of the show and sing a song together,” Roseanne, 64, recalls. After the show, “he would throw money at us. If he played Vegas, we were too young to gamble, but he’d say, ‘Go gamble! Go play the slots!'”

Johnny lived much of his life with reckless abandon, as depicted in the 2006 movie Walk the Line, which dramatized his drug addiction, infidelity and law-breaking early days. But Rosanne saw a sweeter side of her dad. “He loved to make ice cream for us in the summer — like, hand-cranked ice cream,” she told Closer Weekly at a TCA Summer Press Tour event to promote the upcoming PBS documentary Country Music. “You knew his arm was exhausted, but he just kept doing it until it was ready for us.” His favorite flavor? “Peach,” says Roseanne. “He would throw fresh peaches in.”

Rosanne Cash
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Despite his stern stage demeanor, Johnny had a silly sense of humor at home. “He was really funny,” Rosanne gushes. “He was a practical joker. And he’d get down on the floor with the kids. He loved babies.”

But Rosanne says the biggest misconception about her flag-waving, America-loving father was “that he was a right-winger — that kind of narrow-minded, evangelical sort of guy. He was so not that guy.”

In fact, his taste in music alone proved how broad-minded he was. “He took my brother [John Carter Cash] to see heavy metal bands,” Rosanne says. “He listened to everything and he had the widest, most ecumenical taste in music. He loved all music. It was like Louis Armstrong said, there was only good music and bad music.”

That openness was reflected in Johnny’s later recordings, when he covered songs by the likes of Nine Inch Nails and won a new generation of fans. It was an extension of his underlying ethos. “There was an expansiveness to his spirit that was unending,” says Rosanne. “He had the mind of a truly great artist. Sometimes it’s hard for truly great artists to live in their body in the world.”

June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash
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In the last months of Johnny’s life, after his beloved second wife, June Carter Cash, had passed away at 73 in May 2003, “he liked me to read Psalms to him,” Rosanne says. “I’m not religious, but I was happy to read them. He had lost his sight at that point.”

Johnny died at 71 in September 2003, and Rosanne attended Christmas Eve services a few months later. She was inspired to adapt a hymn she heard into a new song, writing, “We’re all walking in that direction to go behind that veil.” At that moment, she says, “I felt a deep connection with my parents, who had gone behind the veil.”

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