One of the most fascinating things about music is what the power of one song can do. When Johnny Cash first started his American Recordings with Rick Rubin during the 90s, it was seen with mild anticipation. Outside of Cash fans and the critics, very few people cared anymore what the man in black was up to. When he covered Glen Danzig on the first album, it was more of a novelty. Even bringing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers into the second album, lended very little mainstream credibility to the project. In fact, his covers of Beck and Soundgarden on his second outing were scoffed at by most fans of mainstream MTV. This trend continued on the third album with his morbid cover of U2’s One. Many U2 fans were insulted despite the band’s blessing and even past duets. But the anti-Cash frenzy was stirred to new heights when it was discovered that he would be covering NIN’s extremely personal “Hurt” on his fourth endeavour. And the man mixing the pot was none other that Trent, himself. He was livid when he heard Cash would be taking on a song he wrote during one of his lowest life points. This was his song and Cash was about to destroy it. Then…we heard Cash’s version.
Cash delivered a chilling macabre testimony as a man standing over his grave, looking back at his life, his love, all his wrongs, and what he had left. It coverted everyone to fans. Those who scoffed at his earlier covers, went running to the stores to stock up on the first three discs. MTV embraced him, nominating Hurt for Video of the Year…though they gave it to Justin Timberlake. But even Justin, a Tennessee boy, claimed his winning was a travesty over Cash. Most importantly, it converted Trent…who said he cried the first time he watched the video. Cash had not only done a respectable cover, he did it better. This was Cash song now…he realized he had written it for him.
That one song, changed the perception of Cash. That one song not only proved he was still a legend, it changed the credibility of his recent work. The American recordings went from being novelties…to genius. Today sees the third and final post-humous release from the American sessions. And the appetite for this material is still at a fever pitch. In fact, from a poll on this site, more people want to hear this album over the new Hendrix…almost 2-to-1. That is the power of one song.
He deliver the song, weeks before his death. Giving us the chance to show we still appreciated him and that he would never be forgotten.
Here are the 11 Best Johnny Cash Songs (of the America Recordings Era):
1. Hurt (IV)
2. Solitary Man (III)
3. Man Comes Around (IV)
4. I See A Darkness (III)
5. Redemption Song (Unearthed)
6. The Mercy Seat (III)
7. Further On Up The Road (V)
8. One (III)
9. Sea of Heartbreak (Unchained)
10. I’ve Been Everywhere (Unchained)
11. Thirteen (I)
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