Archive Photos/Getty Images

Johnny Cash may be best known as the rough-and-tumble Man in Black, who performed a set at Folsom Prison, but he had a softer side, especially when it came to his wife, June Carter.

In what may be one of the greatest love stories from the South, Cash and Carter met backstage at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry back in 1956, where Cash was performing for the first time. The two singers and songwriters felt an instant connection as they were already fans of each other's work. When they finally met at the Ryman Auditorium, Cash said, "I've always wanted to meet you," and Carter replied, "I feel like I know you already."

Their love came quick and strong, despite the fact that both were married or mid-divorce—Cash to Vivian Liberto and Carter to Carl Smith—and had six children between them. Soon they found a way to be together and their feelings grew even stronger. So strong, that Carter described the sensation as like being in "a ring of fire." If that phrase sounds familiar, it's because as a musician, she poured her feelings about her new relationship into her music, writing the now-classic "Ring of Fire," which Cash eventually turned into a massive hit.

Cash proposed to Carter again and again, but she always said no. In 1968, he proposed once again, this time on stage in front of thousands of people gathered in an auditorium in London, Ontario, and she finally said yes. They married later that year 1968, a dozen years after their backstage meeting at the Grand Ole Opry.

WATCH: Love Letter from Jackie Kennedy to JFK up for Auction Offers Rare Look Inside Their Relationship

The couple worked together, raised children, created music, and toured for almost 35 years. They weren't just husband and wife, but professional partners, too, tapping into their vast creative power to create some of the most enduring hits in country music history. Their love story was not a simple one, as anyone who has watched Walk the Line knows, but despite the ups and downs and painful moments, there's no doubt it was filled with devotion, respect, persistence, and a deep and abiding love for each other.

That was never more apparent than in the love letter that Cash wrote his wife on her 65th birthday on June 23, 1994. [I] realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met," he wrote in the timeless love letter. "We got old and got used to each other. We think alike. We read each others [sic] minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes we take each other for granted," he continued, "You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You're the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much."

While it should be no surprise that the talented songwriter had such a way with words, the note is hard to read without getting a tear in your eye. No wonder the Daily Mail's readers voted it the most romantic love letter of all time.

After 35 years of marriage, June Carter Cash passed away on May 15, 2003 in Nashville, following complications from heart-valve replacement surgery. Four months later, Johnny Cash was reunited with his true love.

Advertisement