Here is another edition of J. Eric Smith’s game show, Favorite Songs by Favorite Bands. Once again, I pulled a solo artist. If I HAD picked a band for this time period, it’d likely be The Beatles again, who had started putting out the Anthology albums.
Over a half-century, I kept discovering and rediscovering Johnny Cash. From his early hits, I knew who he was. He sang the theme for The Rebel (1959-1962) TV show. The prison albums catapulted him to new fame. I watched his great TV show (1969-1972) which had a lot of rock, pop and soul singers as well as country stars; I just discovered it’s being rerun in my area.
But by the early 1980s, I’d largely lost track of him, except for his appearances with the Highwaymen. Well, he had a good quarter-century run. But then he guests on a U2 album, singing The Wanderer!
Shortly thereafter, he did that first American Recording, produced by Rick Rubin, that came out in 1994. And I’m a John R. Cash fan once again. The second disc, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backup band, was also quite appealing. So I had to buy some old Johnny Cash, a greatest hits CD plus Folsom Prison and San Quentin.
The third album was released in 2000, and the fourth in 2002. Right after he died in 2003, Unearthed was released. It contained outtakes and alternate versions of songs recorded for those four American Recordings. It also contained My Mother’s Hymn Book, gospel songs Cash first learned as a child. The final disc is the best of collection from those four albums.
My favorite Johnny Cash songs lean heavily on his latter period. And I’m limiting it to 10 because otherwise, it’d be 50. Only the top 2 are for sure in those positions.
kappa. Redemption Song, with the late Joe Strummer, written by the late Bob Marley, from Unearthed. There are lots of gems there.
iota. God’s Gonna Cut You Down from the posthumous fifth American Recording, the history of the song appears HERE.
theta. Ring Of Fire. Hey, I’m a sucker for the horns, for the Carters’ harmonies…
eta. We’ll Meet Again – the last song on the last album he released before he died. Incidentally, Vera Lynn, most associated with the song, died this year.
zeta. Personal Jesus. Originally performed by Depeche Mode. 4th American album.
epsilon. I Walk the Line – this song defined JRC for me when I was growing up
delta. I Hung My Head from the 4th American album. I owned the Sting original version first and still recognized that Johnny had usurped it from the composer.
gamma. Rusty Cage from the 2nd American album. Written by the late Chris Cornell of Soundgarden
beta. Hurt from the 4th American album. Written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. The song was nominated for best male video at the MTV VMAs but lost to Justin Timberlake. Timberlake said in his acceptance speech “This is a travesty! I demand a recount. My grandfather raised me on Johnny Cash.”
alpha. The Mercy Seat from the 3rd American Recording. A cover of a Nick Cave song.
Next time period
Beach Boys (2005-2008). My friend Donna George died back in 2002. I had given her a box set of the Beach Boys, and I took it back, with her blessing the month before she died. After the baby was born, I needed musical comfort food and they were the choice.