Country legend Johnny Cash has died of respiratory failure in hospital in Nashville, Tennessee - he was 71.

According to his manager LOU ROBIN, Cash died of "complications from diabetes, resulting in respiratory failure" at the BAPTIST HOSPITAL at 1am local time this morning (12SEP03).

Just three days ago (9SEP03) the singer and songwriter was released from the same hospital after suffering a stomach complaint which kept him from collecting a Best Cinematography in a Video award at last month's (28SEP03) MTV VMA awards in New York.

Cash was an icon of American country music since the 1950s, famous for his gruff voice and a consistent string of hits songs including A BOY NAMED SUE and RING OF FIRE.

He retired from performing in 1997, but continued to record music - enjoying a creative and critical renaissance after teaming up with former rap producer Rick Rubin for a series of heartfelt lo-fidelity albums.

Friends of Cash say he threw himself into his work after the May (03) death of his wife JUNE CARTER CASH following heart surgery. The singer, nicknamed The Man In Black, was due to release a box set of previously unheard material next year (04).

One of the first to pay tribute was JAN FLEDERU of his European fan club.

He says, "He had a great voice, and was a great inspiration to all country fans.

"He sang about farmers and the working people - and that's what we all do, so the songs are common to all the people in the whole world.

"His music will go on forever, just like ELVIS."

12/09/2003 13:30