THE COVERS OF CASH
April 26, 2018
In Johnny Cash’s hands, any song was a potent force. His own compositions, of course, were the most powerful items in his repertoire, but the Man In Black also worked with traditional folk songs and, occasionally, the work of other contemporary musicians.
Here’s six of the best.
‘Hurt’ – Nine Inch Nails
Perhaps the most well-known example of a cover superseding the original. Cash stripped Nine Inch Nails hissing slice of electronica down to a threadbare vocal and slowly building guitar. Tragic and triumphant.
‘Rusty Cage’ – Soundgarden
Cash’s trad-country version of Soundgarden’s ’91 smash hit won him the 1996 Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell would return the favour, contributing a track to the ‘Johnny Cash: Forever Words’ album shortly before his death.
‘I Won’t Back Down’ – Tom Petty
Cash and Petty already had history – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers served as Cash’s backing band on his ‘Unchained’ album. So it was no surprise that Petty himself was happy to lend harmonies to this gruff, Cash-ified rendition from 2000.
‘Redemption Song’ – Bob Marley
As if proof were needed that music links us all, Marley’s legendary tribute to emancipation fits perfectly into Cash’s world of hope deferred. This version is made all the more precious by the appearance of the late Joe Strummer, in LA on vacation, who joined Cash on the track during the 2002 sessions for ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’.
‘The Mercy Seat’ – Nick Cave
Both often walking a common ground of grim, biblical balladry, it’s no surprise that Cave and Cash’s spirits should be kindred, and ‘The Mercy Seat’s tale of an unjustly condemned man is the perfect meeting place. Cash’s cover is from 2000’s ‘American III: Solitary Man’.
‘Girl From The North Country’ – Bob Dylan
Another duet, this time two titans of American music, Cash and Dylan, join forces to perform one of the latter’s most enduring classics. Recorded live for The Johnny Cash show in 1969, the rare network appearance from Dylan was a sign of the esteem in which he held the host.
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“I always knew Johnny Cash had my back.”
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