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Introduction to Johnny Cash Songs

Updated on April 19, 2013

The Man in Black

I was brought up on Johnny Cash in 1970s England. My Dad is a big Johnny Cash fan and I came to share his taste in music. My Mum preferred popular music and I heard plenty of that too, it didn't have the same effect though.

Johnny Cash has always had a big place in my music collection. I recreated my Dad's collection of albums and added to it. Then along came Rick Rubin and I got to enjoy Johnny Cash all over again. Now I have children of my own and I'm introducing Johnny Cash to them.

I'd like to share my appreciation of Johnny Cash with you and tell you about some of my favourites.

Johnny Cash from my childhood

John R Cash

This album takes me back to the Saturday afternoons of my childhood. The songs are so familiar. I knew the lyrics by heart even if I didn't know what they all meant. As a teenager I realized what Cocaine Carolina was all about. He he. I must have innocently sung along to that as a child!

It's hard to pick a favourite, I remember the album as a whole. This was the 70s and the albums were on vinyl so I always heard them through from beginning to end - Dad turning the record over half way through. As each song finishes I hear the next one before it starts playing.

But I will pick a favourite: Jesus was our Saviour (Cotton was our King). Not for religious reasons, I'm a humanist, lack of religion is something else I share with my Dad. Like so many of Johnny Cash's songs it tells a story and evokes a time and a place. I love The Lady Came from Baltimore too. I'm having trouble stopping, there are so many songs on this album that I'm drawn to.

Ragged Old Flag

This album really made an impression. It's about real important topics. Powerful stuff. As as I child I wasn't aware of the wider stories behind these songs, Johnny Cash gave a view into a wider world.

Listening to it again to write this, I especially like Worried Man and Don't go near the Water. But the real stand out is the title track Ragged Old Flag. I remember stopping when this came on and listening. I could see the flag and the bench and the old man "I don't like to brag, but we're kinda proud of That Ragged Old Flag ...".

The Junkie And The Juicehead Minus Me

This is my favourite Johnny Cash album from my childhood. I love Johnny Cash's voice mixed with his wife and daughters' voices. I don't remember knowing the name of the album as a child. When I went away to university I remembered this album and tried to find a copy - first I had to identify it (which was possible due to the emerging internet). But it wasn't yet on CD, I tracked down a vinyl copy.

The song that I really remembered was the Broken Freedom Song with his daughter Johnny Cash. Beautiful. This album introduced me to female country musicians. June Carter's voice on Ole Slewfoot is just amazing, it's just so full on. (Just played Old Slewfoot and my two year old son's ears pricked up, he started singing along and asked for more. The boy has taste.)

I love I do Believe in a Higher Power. And Father and Daughter (Father and Son) with his step-daughter Rosey Nix has been a lifelong favourite. This was the first version I heard, only discovering the also brilliant Cat Stevens version much later. There's not a song on the album that I don't adore.

Discovering my own Johnny Cash

The first Johnny Cash albums I chose

Once I went away to university I missed my Dad's Johnny Cash albums and began to track them down. I also began to build up a collection of other Johnny Cash albums. I listened to lots of other music too. But JC has been a constant in my life.

Highwaymen

I love this collaboration between Johnny Cash and three of the other big names in country. Not long after buying this album I moved to a road called Park View which always amused me.

I love Willie, Kris and Waylon, but Johnny's voice stands out.

The Essential Johnny Cash

While at university I collected a few Johnny Cash compilation albums. These came from the bargain bin, reflecting JC's relative obscurity in the early nineties. Unfortunately these CDs were lost in a burglary. They weren't replaced with exactly the same albums, but they covered pretty much the same tracks as this Essential Johnny Cash album.

The Highway Patrolman

One of my all time favourites. I was always overwhelmed by the relationship between the brothers. Means even more now I have two boys myself.

I had no idea the original was by Springsteen until recently. I know this as a Johnny Cash song.

Love, God, Murder (and Life)

These compilations were put together a little later, but contain many of the songs I listed to during this period, plus some extras.

Thankyou Rick Rubin

Thankyou Rick Rubin

I had assumed that Johnny Cash's best work was behind him. Then Rick Rubin came along and was brave enough to record bare Johnny Cash - just voice and guitar. Amazing.

American Recordings

I was blown away when this came out. The opening song Delia's Gone doesn't pull any punches, I did a double take at the lyrics. Tennessee Stud is pure entertainment. And Redemption gets me every time. Thankyou Rick Rubin.

American IV: The Man Comes Around

And Rick Rubin didn't stop there. We have six American Recordings albums to enjoy. IV is a particular favourite of mine.

Wow. This album is seriously good. Not the sort of thing I can have on casually in the background. It demands and gets my full attention. This album has a lot of covers of songs from other artists and I knew most of the originals which made for very interesting listening. You can hear the age in Johnny's voice but that just adds to the emotional impact.

I know and love b>Personal Jesus as a Depeche Mode song - I was shocked to hear Johnny Cash singing it, superb. I Hung my Head is compelling.

The Man Comes Around shows that Cash could still write an meaningful song, it's full of biblical references and powerful language. Excellent.

And Sam Hall makes me smile every time.

Hurt. What can I say, shivers down my spine. And I can barely watch the video (see below). Raw. Created a lot of new Cash fans. Made me proud to have been listeniing my whole life.

Hurt

Johnny's face. June's Face. The picture of his mother. Cash as a young man. His shaking hand.

A life passing before your eyes. Perfect.

American VI: Ain't No Grave

There are a few times when the words aren't quite so clearly enunciated as they would have been by a younger Johnny Cash. But this isn't a younger Johnny Cash. It's Cash at the end of his life and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I love the version of Kristofferson's For the Good Times. And Satisfied Mind is perfect.

Johnny Cash is gone, but I'm sure I'll be listening to him for the rest of my life.

Unearthed

And if that isn't enough Johnny Cash for you (and I can't believe you can get enough Johnny Cash), this is a superb addition. I particularly enjoy Hymns (also available as My Mother's Hymn Book).

I got a boy

I got a boy

Well two boys actually. Neither of them called John. My music collection is larger and more varied than my Dad's, but they'll certainly get to hear plenty of Johnny Cash. It remains to be seen whether they'll appreciate him.

Johnny Cash Children's Album

My favourite on this album is probably My Grandfather's Clock. Or maybe it's Miss Tara - I know the Nanci Griffith version of Turn Around (the song Miss Tara is based on) - it's all the more powerful now I have children myself. The Dinosaur Song is a great favourite in our house too. And I love I got a boy and his name is John - "goin' where his Daddy goes, learnin' what his Daddy knows".

I feel like I've got lots more to say on this subject so I'll updating this lens.

Meanwhile, let me know what you think.

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    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      I was also brought up with Johnny Cash! So nice to read more about him in your lens!

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

      I too was brought up with Johnny cash, Sunday Mornings, my dad used to blast this out...still love him today though