Branson, Missouri (NAPSI) - One of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Johnny Cash, known as “The Man in Black,” would have been 80 years old this year.

Although a country music icon, Cash’s music spanned blues, folk, rock ‘n’ roll and gospel, adding to his tremendous multigenerational appeal. His humble farm-boy roots, his rebellious nature and his early, public battles with drugs and alcohol only added to Cash’s celebrity.

His widespread and enduring popularity, evidenced by inductions into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1980), the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2010) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1995), also made Cash one of the only artists to sell over 90 million records.

Signing with Sun Studios in 1954, Cash wrote and recorded songs that expressed his passion for life and compassion for others, as well as his rebelliousness and spirituality.

This is especially true of Cash’s signature songs, including “I Walk the Line,” which shot to No. 1 on Billboard’s chart in 1955 and stayed on the charts for an incredible 43 weeks, selling over 2 million copies.

Soon, Cash had performed at the Grand Ole Opry and was touring up to 300 nights a year, supported by an impressive string of hit songs. He also appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Tonight Show” and other popular TV programs.

But success took its toll and by the early 1960s Cash’s first marriage was collapsing and his grueling tour schedule had eased him into drug addiction.

Recorded in 1963, “Ring of Fire,” a song co-written by Cash’s new love interest, June Carter, would become the biggest hit of his career, staying at No. 1 on the charts for seven weeks. Carter would play a pivotal role in helping Cash to overcome his addictions.

In 1967, Cash and Carter ironically recorded “Jackson,” a duet about a married couple whose relationship had lost its “fire.” The song reached No. 2 on the country charts and, after the couple wed in 1968, they picked up a Grammy for Best Country & Western Performance, Duet, Trio or Group.

In 1970, Cash’s recording of Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” hit No. 1 on the country charts and earned the Country Music Association Award for Song of the Year.

Over the next 30 years, Cash would continue to have numerous hit songs, including his 1985 single, “Highwayman,” which he recorded as part of The Highwaymen, a group formed with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

In 2002, Cash recorded a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt,” which won an MTV Award and a Grammy and earned Cash three more CMA awards in 2003.

Cash’s extraordinary life, as well as his impact on such artists as Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Grace Potter, Shooter Jennings, Chris Isaak, John Carter Cash, Josh Thompson, Yelawolf and Justin Townes Earle, will be explored when Ovation premieres “Song by Song: Johnny Cash,” an original six-part series that remembers the legendary singer/songwriter through his most popular songs. Check local listings.