Here's Who Inherited Johnny Cash's Wealth After He Died

Famed country singer Johnny Cash had five kids — but not all of them reaped the same benefits of his legacy, according to the New York Daily News.

Johnny Cash was born in Arkansas in 1932, and he was raised on a cotton farm, where he spent his childhood years working the land with his family (via Biography). Cash had an affinity for music even as a youngster; he penned his first song at age 12. When he got older, he spent a few years in the Air Force, where he and his friends created their first band. Then, he met his first wife, Vivian, and they married in 1954. Their first daughter, Rosanne, was born in 1955, followed by Kathleen, Cindy, and Tara in the following years. But as Cash went on musical tours more and more often, Vivian was concerned about his heavy drinking and drug usage and filed for divorce in 1966.

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June helped Johnny turn his life around

June Carter Cash helped Johnny Cash turn his life around, according to Biography. He said his health was being affected as he consumed drugs and alcohol, so June helped him get help for his addictions, and the two married in 1968. About two years later, the couple welcomed their son John Carter Cash. Express reports that June also had two kids, Rosie and Carlene, from a previous marriage.

Johnny Cash continued to release new music, like "A Thing Called Love," throughout the 1970s, and by 1980, he had earned his spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame (per Biography). But he also began to have health issues, and his addiction issues also resurfaced after he had surgery in 1983. He had double bypass heart surgery in 1988 and was diagnosed with autonomic neuropathy in 1997 (via Cash was completely heartbroken when June died in May 2003, and he died in September of that year due to complications from diabetes.

After such a long and prolific career, Cash had left behind plenty of cash for his son — but not so much for his daughters, as his will would stipulate. Over decades of creating hit country tunes, he had amassed a $60 million to $100 million fortune (via Express). The Nashville Ledger reported that just before his death, Cash finalized his estate details. And over time, the money continued to grow, reaching as much as $300 million.

Cash left his daughters $1 million each

The family spat has to do with one song in particular: "Ring of Fire," reports the New York Daily News. June Carter Cash, Johnny Cash, and Merle Kilgore wrote the song together. Per MTV, the song was released in 1963, five years before June and Johnny got married. Decades after the couple first wrote it, it caused a heated debate among the Cash children. Since June and Johnny only had one biological child together, John Carter Cash, that meant that all their other children were snubbed from obtaining royalties from the hit tune. The four kids that Cash had with his first wife — Rosanne, Cindy, Tara, and Kathleen — did not get any of the royalties from the song.

Each of Cash's four daughters was given $1 million after Cash died, which is no small amount, but also not the steady stream of royalties generated by a beloved hit country song (via Contact Music). Plus, after Cash died, fans began playing the song agian, raking in millions more in royalties.

The legal battle over Ring of Fire

There are conflicting stories about the origins of the "Ring of Fire" song. According to the Irish Examiner, Johnny Cash told Vivian Cash that he gave June "half credit" on the tune, but only because he felt bad that June was low on funds. However, the New York Daily News reports that Cash and Merle Kilgore wrote the song while on a fishing trip, but since Cash was going through a divorce at the time, he added June as a writer so that the song wouldn't be tied entirely to him. Regardless of the actual origins of the song, Johnny Cash, Merle Kilgore, and June Cash are the officially credited writers of the song.

According to the Daily Express, Cash's four daughters eventually sued their brother, John Carter Cash. They wanted to be able to earn royalties from the song as well. However, they lost their case in 2007. So for the foreseeable future, John Carter Cash is the publishing rights owner for at least some of his dad's extensive musical legacy. According to Country Music Today, we probably won't get any more details about Johnny Cash's estate any time soon. Since the rest of Cash's will is confidential, most of the details will be permanently sealed off from the public.