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Headshot of American country singer Johnny Cash (1932 - 2003) singing on stage in a still from the film, 'Johnny Cash - The Man, His World, His Music,' directed by Robert Elfstrom, 1969.

An artist getting dropped from a record label is hardly major news anymore, but on July 15, 1986, Johnny Cash getting dropped by Columbia Records was a huge deal.

Cash had seen a lot of ups and downs in his storied career, particularly after signing with Columbia in 1960. That record deal got him away from Sun Records, the home of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. Fast forward to the mid-1980s though, and Cash’s years of hard living had caught up to him. Additionally, the sound of country music had changed pretty drastically. Cash wasn’t adapting well at all.

That led to Columbia’s difficult decision to cut ties with Cash. It wasn’t exactly a surprising move at the time, and only looks bad in hindsight because of what happened much later.

In 1994, Cash linked up with Rick Rubin and released a new album called American Recordings, on Rubin’s new label called… American Recordings. (You may remember Rubin as the co-founder of Def Jam Records.) This started a massive career resurgence that led to a Grammy award in 1998, and a whole new generation of music fans growing to appreciate Johnny Cash, the Man in Black, who may have just fizzled away as a distant country music memory without that fateful drop by Columbia Records in 1986.

Below, a few rarely seen images of Cash throughout the years.