To Mark His Birthday, Here are Ben’s Top 5 Johnny Cash Songs
It's been nearly fifteen years since one of the most important musicians ever passed away. Johnny Cash died on September 12, 2003; four months after the passing of his wife of 35 years June Carter Cash.
Johnny Cash is one of my favorite artists of all time. His music has been in my life since before I can remember. His journey, struggles, triumphs, strength and honesty have been a constant inspiration and comfort as I try to make my way in the world. I love all kinds of music but, Johnny Cash is the soundtrack in my soul. Here are my top five favorite Cash songs.
"Folsom Prison Blues" (1968)
Like the best storytellers Cash gets into the lives of people and tells their tale with mature empathy. “He saw himself as an entertainer who could make a difference in their lives, even for an hour,” -Jim Marshall
"Man in Black" (1971)
These three or so minutes still give me goose bumps. If I hear it once I have to put it on repeat and hear it 20 more times. There is true compassion for his fellow man in this song. Not conditional compassion but genuine love. At the same time there is real anger, not hippie anger, but real disdain for the real evils of the world. He sees the world as you see it and feels your pain.
"Drive On" (1994)
This song comes form the first of Cash's American Recording albums and marks the beginning of his partnership with produce Rick Rubin. This entire album is pure magic. Just Johnny and a guitar, free from corporate oversight and Nashville pressure. He does some great covers and originals on the album but "Drive On" is my favorite. Cash tells the story of a Vietnam Vet from the Vet's perspective, taking the listener inside his head to feel his reality.
"The Man Comes Around" (2002)
One of the things that made Cash such a great artist was his faith. He was honest about his relationship with God. He didn't use it as marking or to pander. He truly believed and struggled. And he shared that belief and those struggles with the listener. This song from 2002 is off his fourth American album. I love this song because it is dark and forbidding and still joyful. Its about revelation; ending of the known and beginning of unknown; death and life; light in the dark. It was one the last songs Cash wrote before his died.
"One Piece at a Time" (1976)
It wasn't all death and oppression with Johnny, there were fun songs too. Like 1976's "One Piece at a Time." Its the story of a guy that wants to save a little money on a new car.
"Ain't No Grave" (2010)
I'm gonna throw in one more. This is the title track from his 2010 posthumous album.