Radio Blog #8: The Man In Black

Filed under: — Kate @ 1:14 am EST

In anticipation of the upcoming movie, Walk the Line, I thought I’d give y’all some essential Johnny Cash to chew on.

Now before this goes any further, I must emphatically state for the record:


I hate the snivelling. I hate the whining. I hate the drawl-ing. I hate the redneck mentality that seems to go along with it.

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will say:
Kate = Hates Country Music.

Except I LOVE Johnny Cash.

Perhaps you’re asking yourself “Why this strange, seemingly hypocritical thinking? I’ve never known Kate to be anything but logical and rational when it comes to music.”

Okay, so maybe you weren’t thinking that last part.

Anyway… there was something about Johnny that set him apart from the others. There always is with the great ones.

He’s more than country. He’s folk. He’s gospel. He’s blues. He’s rock and roll.

He wanted nothing to do with the sickly sweet sound of the popular Nashville country artists.

While his contemporaries were dressed in rhinestones and glitter, he was the Man in Black.

He sang about the poor, the oppressed, the underdog, and the everyman.

He wasn’t afraid to thumb his nose at the establishment: When he won the Grammy for Best Country Album in 1998, in spite of getting no radio play, he and producer Rick Rubin placed this ad in Billboard Magazine.

And that voice. Oh my god that voice. That deep booming cavernous voice.

Like steel draped in velvet.

Rich, haunting, reaching into the deepest recesses of your soul.

Transcending genres, generations, and time itself.

And if this lifelong anti-country girl can dig Johnny Cash, well then so can you.

Some info about the songs after the jump…

Without further adeiu, I will now present you with my essential Johnny Cash songs:

1) Hey Porter and 2) Cry, Cry, Cry (1955)
Johnny’s first single and B-side.

3) Folsom Prison Blues (1955)
Cash was inspired to write this song after seeing the movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison while serving in West Germany in the United States Air Force.

4) I Walk the Line (1956)
Johnny’s first #1 hit.

5) Don’t Take Your Guns to Town (1958)

6) I Still Miss Someone (1958)

7) Ring of Fire (1963) lyrics by June Carter and Merle Kilgore
This was a major crossover hit. Written about Cash, the song describes the personal hell June Carter went through as she wrestled with her forbidden love for him (they were both married to other people at the time), as well as his drug and alcohol abuse.

8) The Ballad of Ira Hayes (1964) lyrics by Peter LaFarge
This song tells the true story of Pima Indian Ira Hayes, who was one of the heroes of the WWII battle at Iwo Jima. Despite his heroism, Hayes returned home to face depression and racism. Even though the song was a No. 3 country single, many stations refused to play it because of the subject matter. Cash took out a full-page ad in Billboard Magazine, lambasting country radio for its cowardice.

9) Daddy Sang Bass (1968) lyrics by Carl Perkins

10) A Boy Named Sue (1969) lyrics by Shel Silverstein
Recorded at San Quentin Prison, this shot to #1 on the Country Charts and #2 on the Pop Charts in the U.S. And honestly, if you don’t listen to this song and smile, then you are dead inside.

11) Man in Black (1971)
Johnny wrote this song to explain his wardrobe choices.

12) Hurt (2003) lyrics by Trent Reznor
This was released on the 2002 album, American IV: The Man Comes Around. Producer Rick Rubin suggested the song, and Cash’s ailing voice and somber arrangement made the song take on another dimension. This recording won the Country Music Award for “Single of the Year” in 2003.

Adding further weight to the song was the deeply moving and personal music video, which showed a 70 year old Johnny contrasted against images from his early years. The video was actually too painful for me, and I wasn’t able to watch the whole thing until after he died. “Hurt” was given the 2003 Country Music Award for Video of the Year and the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.

I’ll try to find a link to the video or post it here later.

And there you have it. The Essential Johnny Cash as chosen by me. I’m sure some would disagree, but for the casual listener I think this is a good snapshot.

8 Responses to “Radio Blog #8: The Man In Black”

  1. daveT Says:

    i can’t stand country either… and am not the cash fan that you or many others are, but i’m at least interested in seeing this movie about him. i’m kinda worried that it won’t be interesting tho, since i don’t know that much about him… maybe i’ll wait for some reviews before i head out to see it

  2. Kate Says:

    I think he led a very interesting life, and the movie so far is getting good reviews (check out this Google News link).

    We’ll see. I’ll probably see it no matter what, so I’m really hoping it doesn’t disappoint.

  3. daveT Says:

    listening to the tunes on that radio blog thingy and reading the review actually makes me want to see it more… drat. and i had so hoped to not leave the house all weekend yet again lol

  4. Stan Says:

    Ugh, after listening to 4 full songs, I hate it even more. Not that my Citizen Cope request was much better.

  5. Kate Says:

    Alright, well before you give up, at least check out “A Boy Named Sue” and “Hurt.”

  6. Kate Says:

    Wait, didn’t you have “Hurt” on your random list?

  7. Stan Says:

    Yep, but only because I paid for the download after a high recommendation from you and Holz. Now I feel guilty every time I consider deleting it simply because I paid for it. Oh well. And a Boy Named Sue was one I started listening to and gave up. Maybe I’m just not into the whole influence/history of music.

  8. Kate Says:

    Maybe I’m just not into the whole influence/history of music.
    Perhaps, but you get major credit for giving it a shot. :-)

    It’s really more than the history/influence for me, (obviously). But all I ask is that people don’t dismiss it outright just because it’s “old.”