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Remembering Johnny Cash The Man in Black

September 12th 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Johnny Cash, singer-songwriter, actor, and author who was considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. The name really needs no explanation, primarily remembered as a country icon, his songs and sound spanned other genres including rock and roll and rockabilly —especially early in his career—and blues, folk, and gospel. Johnny Cash was born in Kingsland, Arkansas, and was the fourth child of seven children to Ray and Carrie Cash. His parents named him J. R. Cash because they couldn’t think of a name. When Cash joined the Air Force, he wasn’t allowed to use initials as his name, so he began using the legal name John R. Cash.

In 1955, he signed with Sun Records and took Johnny Cash as his stage name. Cash was known for his deep, distinctive bass-baritone voice, for the “boom-chicka-boom” sound of his Tennessee Three backing band; for a rebelliousness, coupled with an increasingly somber and humble demeanor; for providing free concerts inside prison walls; and for his dark performance clothing, which earned him the nickname “The Man in Black”. He traditionally began his concerts with the phrase “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”, followed by his standard “Folsom Prison Blues”.

Here is “12 Best Johnny Cash Songs” by Keel Radio, honouring Him on the 10th Anniversary of his passing away. (Click on the links to watch them on YouTube)

1. I Walk the Line: written by Johnny Cash and recorded in 1956. After three attempts with moderate chart ratings, “I Walk the Line” became the first number one Billboard hit for Cash. The single remained on the record charts for over 43 weeks, and sold over 2 million copies

2. Ring of Fire: co-written by Johnny’s wife June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore. It’s on Cash’s 1963 album, Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash. It was recorded on March 25, 1963, and became the biggest hit of Johnny Cash’s career, staying at number one on the charts for seven weeks. The song was originally recorded by June’s sister, Anita Carter, on her album Folk Songs Old and New in 1963.

3. Jackson: written in 1963 by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber and was a hit in 1967 by Johnny Cash and June Carter. The song is about a married couple who who discover the fire is gone from their relationship. They  both go to Jackson, Mississippi with each expecting to be welcomed as someone far better suited to the city’s lively night life than the other is.

4. A Boy Named Sue: Written as a poem by Shel Silverstein, “A Boy Named Sue” was made popular by Johnny Cash at the height of his popularity.  He recorded the song live at San Quentin State Prison in during his concert on February 24, 1969. The song spent three weeks at number 2 on the Billboard chart.

5. Ghost Riders in the Sky: Written on June 5, 1948 by Stan Jones. More than 50 performers have recorded versions of the song including Johnny Cash, Bing Crosby, Frankie Laine, Burl Ives, and Marty Robbins. Gene Autry sang it in the movie, Riders in the Sky in 1949.

6. Get Rhythm: Written and recorded by Johnny Cash “Get Rhythm” was released in 1956 as the B-side to Cash’s first Number One hit, “I Walk the Line. In 1969, the original recording of “Get Rhythm” was released as a single itself, with sound effects dubbed in to simulate the sound of a live recording.

7. Folsom Prison Blues: Written and recorded by Johnny Cash and became one of his signature songs. It combines elements from two popular genres, the train song and the prison song. It became one of Cash’s signature songs. It was released on his debut album “With His Hot and Blue Guitar”, and also included on “All Aboard the Blue Train”.

8. One Piece at a Time: The last song performed by Cash to reach number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. It’s a rockabilly novelty song written by Wayne Kemp. The song tells the story of a man who, leaves his home in Kentucky for a job working on the assembly line at General Motors in Detroit, Michigan. Knowing that he will never be able to afford a Cadillac, he steals the parts each day to build his own.

9. Daddy Sang Bass: Written by Carl Perkins in 1968, “Daddy Sang Bass” was recorded by Johnny Cash and was his sixty-first release on the country charts. It went to No. 1 on the Billboard country chart for 6 weeks and spent a total of 19 weeks on the chart.

10. Man In Black: While performing he dressed in all black clothing including a long black knee-length coat. He wore black on behalf of the poor and hungry, the prisoner paying for his crime, the veterans of war, and on behalf of those who have been betrayed by age or drugs.  In 1971, Cash wrote the song “Man in Black”, to help explain his dress code.

11. Five Feet High and Rising: Written and recorded by Johnny Cash and released in 1959. It reached number 14 on the Billboard. The song is about a flood that his family experienced when he was a child. Each time he sings the refrain, the water get another foot higher.

12. I Guess Things Happen That Way: A cross over in 1958 for Johnny Cash, which was written by Jack Clement. It was Johnny Cash’s fourth number one hit. It spend eight weeks at number one and and remained on the chart for a total of twenty-four weeks.

Just shy of four months following the death of his wife, June Carter Cash, Johnny died from complications of diabetes, although many credit the timing of his passing to a broken heart over June’s passing.