Archive for the ‘Rock n Roll 1956 Part 2’ Category

by Robert Seoane

TENNESSEE ERNIE FORD – CARL PERKINS – GENE VINCENT – JOHNNY CASH – THE PLATTERS – THE PENGUINS – THE CREW CUTS – FRANKIE LYMON & THE TEENAGERS – ALAN FREED

The year Rock ‘n’ Roll exploded began with a country song. After having ruled Billboard’s US Country charts for ten weeks starting in November of the prior year, “Sixteen Tons” also topped the Pop charts for another eight weeks into January of 1956.

Tennessee Ernie Ford was, yes, born in Tennessee, and had been recording for Capitol Records since 1949. In 1954, he became recognized nationally thanks to his appearances as a guest star in a handful of “I Love Lucy” shows.

Ford recorded “Sixteen Tons” in 1955. A finger snapping, hip, quasi-country song , “ST” was a coal miner’s lament and had been originally written and recorded by Merle Travis ten years before in 1946. Ford added the finger snapping to his smooth baritone delivery and soon the song ruled the airwaves and carved a permanent niche for itself. It would be shortly replaced however, by a song about a hotel where lonely people go to, sung by a kid from Tupelo, Mississippi.

The ingredients had been laid out and the heat had been turned on to simmer, in preparation for the delicious rock and roll stew that was being prepared in 1956. Elvis was the main ingredient that year as he blazed a trail through western culture that can only be compared to a very elite club of artists, those you can count on one hand and say in one word: Presley, Sinatra, Beatles and Jackson.

Alongside the newly crowned King were other artists who complemented the stew with tasty morsels that have still stayed fresh all these decades. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino and Ray Charles were still churning them out, but they rarely made it into the Pop Top 10 that year. Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” peaked to only No. 29, while “Too Much Monkey Business” and “You Can’t Catch Me” didn’t even make it that high, idling in the 40s and 50s positions. Of the several singles Little Richard had put out that year, including classics like “Rip It Up”, “Slippin & Slidin’”, “Ready Teddy”, “Lucille” and “The Girl Cant Help It”, only “Long Tall Sally” cracked the Pop Top Ten to No. 6.

While these rock ‘n’ roll pioneers were struggling to get to the top of the charts, things were already brewing in different pockets of the southern part of the United States, particularly Tennessee. It was the day before the release of Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel”, the single that would officially usher in the rock ‘n’ roll era, when on January 26, Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holly walked into Decca Records in Nashville, Tennessee and began his first recording session. Also on that same day, not too far in Memphis, Roy Orbison was signing a record contract with Sam Phillips at Sun Records. After the sale of Elvis’ contract to RCA, Phillips was determined to create a new stable of rock ‘n’ roll artists. Orbison wasn’t the only artist ready to spring out their sounds to an anxious world. Sun’s Jerry Lee Lewis was only a year away from busting out.

 

1956 ROCKABILLY

CARL PERKINS

Carl Lee Perkins got his name as “The King of Rockabilly” on the strength of just one song, but a song that would be recorded many times over by legendary rock ‘n’ roll artists to come, including Elvis and The Beatles.
Perkins had signed on to Sun Records two years earlier, in 1954, when he auditioned for Sam Phillips and played “Let Me Take You To The Movies, Magg”. Carl had written that song when he was fourteen. ”Movie Magg” had that familiar bouncy, rockabilly boogie-woogie rhythm that would typify Perkins’ music. Sam heard it and signed him on the spot.

It was a lot easier to be discovered back then. Rock ‘n’ Roll was still a burgeoning musical movement and the foundation was still small, so the growing amount of musicians who liked and played this new sound gravitated to the record companies that recorded it. Although Sun and Chess Records are legendary labels today, back then it was just a guy or two with an office and a recording studio, eager and open to listen to anybody that crossed through their doors.

Perkins was always musically inclined, having been brought up listening to white people singing gospel in churches like Elvis, but also by listening to African slaves working in the field where he often worked with them. One such fellow field worker, an African named John Westbrook, taught Carl how to play blues and gospel guitar on his own battered acoustic and ultimately became his mentor, known to Perkins fondly as “Uncle John”. Perkins’ musical style was influenced by his economic situation, as his family was so poor, he could never afford to buy guitar strings, so when they broke, he’d just make a little knot and tie it back together. To avoid getting cut on the knots, he learned to bend the guitar and developed a whole new sound, soon becoming Perkins’ trademark style.

Carl began to play music for tips with his brothers starting in 1946 at the age of fourteen while still holding down other jobs, including picking cotton and other assorted dead end work. It wasn’t until 1953, when he had just married his long time girl, that he got fired from his daily job and his wife urged him to take more singing gigs. Obviously realizing her husband’s talent, she also urged him to go visit Sun Records after they first heard Elvis sing “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” on the radio. It was the same music he played, she pointed out…he had even played that particular song before. Obviously, they both agreed. Apparently, they thought, someone down in Memphis knew what they were doing, namely Sam Phillips, and Carl Perkins decided that he needed to meet that man.

Back in the 1950s, when times were simpler, it was easy to walk into a record company and gain an audience with its owner to audition for them. That was Perkins’ lucky break. Soon, he would be recording and releasing songs on a regular basis, some of which became regional successes, but nothing that could even come close to the magnitude of Elvis.

Perkins wanted to write a hit, one to fit the mold of the musical style he was playing even before Elvis’ music began to play on the radio. One day in 1955, when he was on tour with Elvis and fellow Sun Records artist and friend Johnny Cash, he confessed to Cash his desire to write a hit, but not knowing what to write about. Cash thought a bit and started to tell him the story of an airman he knew who referred to his military footwear as “blue suede shoes”.
“Why don’t you write a song about his shoes?” Cash suggested out of the blue.
Perkins was perplexed. What on earth could he write about shoes for a rock ‘n’ roll song? He didn’t know a thing about shoes. He mulled it over during the tour on the night of December , 1955, and witnessed a trivial moment that sparked the idea for the song. A young couple were dancing near the stage. Carl overheard the man repeating to his date to be careful and not to “step on his suedes”. Looking down, Carl was amazed to see that he was wearing the blue suede shoes his friend Johnny Cash suggested he write about. Perkins thought…here was this young man dancing with this pretty young thing and all he was interested in was making sure that she doesn’t step on his blue suede shoes. The seed to a song destined to be a rock ‘n’ roll classic had been planted.

“Well, you can knock me down, slap my face, slander my name all over the place…” “…burn my house, steal my car, drink my liquor from an ol’ fruit jar…”

But please, whatever you do, DO NOT step on his blue suede shoes.

After Sam Phillips recorded “Blue Suede Shoes” on December 19, 1955, he knew he had a hit on his hands with the second take. So did Elvis, who heard Perkins’ record it the night he came to visit, with Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis already present at the studio. Presley soon asked Sam if he could record Carl’s song for his debut album. Phillips consented, but only after he agreed not to release his version of “Blue Suede Shoes” as a single, for fear of eclipsing Perkins’ own success. Elvis agreed, not wanting to eclipse his friend’s success and instead of releasing it as a single, it became the opening track for Elvis’ first album.

Many legendary artists will cite Perkins and “Blue Suede Shoes” as one of the most influential artists and songs in their musical careers. Even Lawrence Welk, legendary, great-grandparents, coma-inducing orchestra leader, recorded his own version of it.

The Beatles played Perkins as a standard in their live shows and recorded some of his songs like “Matchbox” and “Honey Don’t” for their albums.


John Lennon played “BSS” live in concert with his first version of his Plastic Ono Band in 1969, consisting of Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman and drummer Andy White, and released the album as “Live Peace in Toronto”, opening the concert and delivering the tune with the same nonchalant, laid back singing that Perkins recorded it in, unlike Presley’s frenzied version. The difference is by one beat. Where Carl’s manner is to wait to sing the next line after the two beats, Elvis delivered each subsequent line of the open on the second beat.

“Blue Suede Shoes” was released on New Year’s Day 1956 and within three months, became the first song ever recorded by a country artist to reach to Number Three on Billboard’s R&B charts, surpassing Elvis’ “”Heartbreak Hotel”. It also hit Number Two on Billboard’s Top 100 and Top Country charts. His immediate success however, was not to be enjoyed by Perkins for very long. On March 22, two days before he was to appear on the Perry Como Show, Perkins, his bandmates and brothers suffered a serious car accident, landing him in the hospital for months. One of his brothers eventually died from the injuries he had sustained. In the meantime, “Blue Suede Shoes” sells a million singles by April. Laying on his back in the hospital on the night of April 3rd, Perkins watched Elvis on The Milton Berle Show perform his song. Eventually, Presley was allowed to release his version of “Blue Suede Shoes” as a single, but whereas this writer’s personal opinion is that the Presley version is the better one, and time has proved it to be the most popular version of the song, back in 1956, Perkins’ version only reached to No. 20 in Billboard’s Hot 100. Messrs.John Lennon and Paul McCartney would disagree with me however, as they’ve both played “BSS” together and separately and, purists as they are, played it using Perkins’ laid back open.

All of Perkin’s other singles followed the same whimsical vein of “Blue Suede Shoes”, capturing lyrical inconsequential moments and delivering the song with a boogie-woogie guitar rhythm designed to get your toes a’tappin’.

“Well they took some honey from a tree, dressed it up and called it me…” -Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby



“Well, sometimes I love you on a Saturday night, Sunday morning you don’t look right, you’ve been out painting the town, ah, ah, baby, ah, ah, been steppin’ around, but ah, ah, baby, honey don’t…”
–Honey Don’t

“Well, I’m sitting here wondering, will a matchbox hold up my clothes…” –Matchbox.

People have mistaken those lyrics to say “Got a matchbox hole in my clothes”, but, besides the fact that it would be a match hole and not a matchbox hole, Perkins’ picked up the line from an old blues song, and closely related to the line due to his own poverty-stricken childhood.

Those three songs became rock ‘n’ roll classics. “Matchbox” in particular, was the song he was recording the night Elvis dropped by Sun with Cash and Lewis in attendance. Perkins had recalled the lyrics of the old Blind Lemon Jefferson song when his father used to sing it to him, only made it faster after picking up on a groove Jerry Lee Lewis had started playing. Sam Phillips heard Lewis’ groove and said something to the effect that whatever he was playing would make a great intro. Soon, Perkins launched into a sped up rockabilly version of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Matchbox Blues”.

These songs are remembered not by Carl Perkins’ versions but by The Beatles’, who recorded all three; one by George and two by Ringo. It all came about during a tour of Germany in 1964 when he was at his own tribute party and the Beatles had been invited. Ringo approached Carl and asked him if he could record “Honey Don’t”. Perkins, of course, did not hesitate in agreeing.

America turned his back mostly to Carl Perkins’ and many other popular artists from the fifties as the decade ended, but fifties’ rock ‘n’ roll remained intensely popular as a nostalgia inducing live event in the States and particularly in Europe well into the Sixties. Perkins spent those years touring, at times with his friend and sometime collaborator Johnny Cash, and battling his alcoholism together with Cash, who was having his own battle with drug addiction.

Besides Perkins’ enduring contributions to the music of his friend Johnny Cash as well as the Beatles, he wrote the song “Champaign, Illinois” with Bob Dylan in 1969 soon after the two first met, after a Johnny Carson show appearance.

The Seventies came and went with regular public appearances, but without the proper royalties from the legendary music he composed. After years of legal wrangling, he managed to retain ownership of his music from Sam Phillips in 1976.

Time proved to bring two admirers together when he joined Paul McCartney in 1981 to co-write and record the song “Get It” for McCartney’s upcoming “Tug Of War” album. The song followed the same bouncy whimsy Perkins was so well known for.


Four years later, in 1985, Perkins joined George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and other notable country and rock artists, on stage to shoot a TV special celebrating Carl his music. Released on DVD in 2006, it delivers a powerful show as he’s surrounded by the legends who were fans of his music as kids. Perkins’ never had a chance to work with John Lennon.

Perkins died of throat cancer in January, 1998 at age 65.

 

GENE VINCENT

Like all the up and coming rock ‘n’ roll legends of his time, Vincent Eugene Craddock also grew up listening to and learning to love both country & western as well as gospel music. He never planned being a rock ‘n’ roll singer. Instead, he was planning a lifelong career in the Navy ever since he had enlisted in 1952. Vincent’s one weakness however, was his penchant for liquor. One summer day in 1955, a motorcycle accident in which he may have been driving his new ’55 Triumph inebriated, almost caused him to lose his leg and left him with a permanent steel sheath surrounding it, as well as a lot of pain. Unable to bend his leg when walking due to the sheath, it quickly ended his Navy career.

During his stay at the hospital, he met a man by the name of Donald Graves. Having nothing else to do but recuperate in bed, they both began to write a song that would ultimately become “Be Bop A Lula”.

“I come in dead drunk and stumble over the bed. And me and Don Graves were looking at this bloody book; it was called Little Lulu. And I said, “Hell, man, it’s ‘Be-Bop-a-Lulu.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, man, swinging.’ And we wrote this song.” –Gene Vincent

Once he left the hospital, he turned towards his second love, music. He changed his name to Gene Vincent, formed a band and called them The Blue Caps, a term used for enlisted men, in tribute to his brief Navy stint. Playing around country bars in his home state of Virginia, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps won a talent contest organized by radio DJ “Sheriff Tex” Davis. Impressed with what he heard, Davis became their manager.

Credits on “Be Bop A Lula” read Gene Vincent as the writer of the music and Davis as the lyricist, despite the fact that Vincent himself had identified Graves as the actual lyricist. Despite Davis’ many denials, it’s said that Davis paid Graves $50 to hand over the rights of the lyrics to him.

The birth and life of the phrase “Be Bop A Lula” has had many twists and turns. Derived from the word be-bop, a style of jazz music popular in the 1940s, it’s even further derived from a misunderstanding of the word “Arriba”, a Spanish word that means “up”, but is also used as a means of encouragement , in this case towards their fellow musicians when playing a jam. The phrase also has its roots in earlier recordings from the 40s, Helen Humes’ “Be-Baba-Leba” and Lionel Hampton’s “Hey! Baba-Re-Bop”.

Manager Tex Davis took the “Be-Bop-A-Lula” demo and managed to catch the interest of Capitol Records, who was desperately looking for an answer to Elvis and his recent release, “Heartbreak Hotel”. They heard echoes of Elvis in Vincent’s delivery and indeed he did also share his hiccup sound and sudden shifts from high to low notes before certain syllables. Vincent’s way of saying certain words like “…baby”, wrapping his voice around the vowel, also echoed Elvis. But his onstage style was distinctly different.

Where TV cameras were placed on sudden alert to avoid Elvis’ convulsing pelvis, Vincent simply stood there and looked up in the air to an imaginary mezzanine, his head shaking side to side, his body jerking to the rhythm and his leg unable to bend at the knee.

Backed by a very competent band in the Blue Caps, Cliff Gallup’s lead guitar complements the recording with a fiery solo, and sometimes straying into more adventurous guitar licks during their live performances, serving as a blueprint to contemporary lead guitarist that followed. Although drummer Dickie Harrell is the wailing yell heard on the recording, a spontaneous decision made by Harrell simply because he wanted to make sure his family heard him on record, Gallup took over the yelling duties during live performances, probably because he was closest to Vincent’s mic. Nevertheless, that spontaneous yell epitomizes The Yell heard round the world a million times in rock ‘n’ roll song after song over the decades.

“Be Bop A Lula” was a recipe for future artists. Put nonsense lyrics together with a good backbeat, add a guitar solo and a good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll wail and viola, you got yourself one piping hot rock ‘n’ roll classic.

Rock ‘n’ roll’s loyal opposition, Steve Allen, used the lyrics to “Be-Bop-A-Lula” in a comedy bit, reciting the words as if it were a Shakespearean sonnet. Admittedly, it is funny because the lyrics are so simplistic that saying it without singing it sounds absurd. Although I personally forgive Mr. Allen for making fun of the lyrics because he sacrificed it on the noble comedic altar, I do want to make a point over the fact that Allen did have contempt for this type of song; a song that can be so popular with lyrics that were so childish. What Mr. Allen could not understand nor comprehend was that, back then, when words had still not come to the fore in rock music, lyrics were unimportant. It was the beat that counted, and that was all that counted. The vocal was just another musical instrument not meant to be necessarily understood. It was part of the fabric of the beat. Gene Vincent could have recited his grocery list to the melody and rhythm and still have had a hit, but adding such an original twist on a known musical style in its title was nothing short of genius.

“Be-Bop-A-Lula” joined the soundtrack for that summer when it was released in June, 1956 and soon made a place for itself in rock ‘n’ roll legend. It was a song that had profoundly influenced a vast number of upcoming artists, including Paul McCartney and John Lennon, who later recorded it for his “Rock ‘n’ Roll” album in 1975.

The song was given further life when it was showcased in “The Girl Can’t Help it” with Jayne Mansfield. Released on December , 1956, the movie tapped in on the rock ‘n’ roll monster. The producers of the movie tried to get Elvis Presley to be in it, but despite their inability to do so, they still boast performances by Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Platters and Vincent.


After a string of lesser but still competent hits , they never reached the biosphere “Be Bop A Lula” lived in. Gene Vincent’s band began to splinter and money problems started to arise. A large US tax bill forced Vincent to move to Europe as the Sixties dawned. There, he found an appreciative audience that had not forgotten him like his US fans had. On December 15, 1959, he met Jack Good when he appeared on his TV show Boy Meets Girl. Good influenced Vincent profoundly and changed his style, putting him in a leather jacket, pants and gloves, a look that would carry him on through the years.

A few months later, Vincent shared a cab with Eddie Cochran when they were both touring in the UK on a fateful April day in 1960. The taxi blew a tire and careened into a tree, taking Cochran’s life. It sent Vincent back into the hospital with a broken collarbone and ribs, as well as further deterioration on an already badly mangled leg, and left him with a distinct limp.

During his European tours, he rubbed elbows with English rock’s future superstars who were all still young, easy to impress and eager to learn, such as Ron Wood and The Beatles. Paul McCartney recounts a story to Ron Wood regarding the Beatles’ introduction to Gene Vincent’s wild ways back in Hamburg, Germany in 1961, when he practically broke down his girlfriend’s hotel room door in a fit of jealousy and quickly brandished a gun, causing The Beatles to suddenly recall a pressing engagement and vamoose. According to Paul’s recollections as well as Ron Wood’s, Vincent seemed very fond of handguns, including the infamous story when Gary Glitter swears Vincent fired several shots at him during an argument in 1968.

Ironically, Gene Vincent’s performance of his signature song in 1963 France beckoned the weirdness of the decade that was at the brink of sudden change. He slowed down his vocalization of” Be Bop A Lula” to an almost dreamy, psychedelic rendition, echoing the style four years before it even became known. Still with his eyes looking upward as he sang, Vincent’s performance that night was downright weird, but also echoed many future artists to come.

His subsequent European tours got only weirder but in a sad turn, because his alcoholism caught the best of him, many times appearing drunk out of his mind. Some audiences booed and jeered. Others were more polite and patient and many times saw Vincent’s alcoholic haze lift after some time, delivering a fine performance as he sobered up.

Vincent was a true musician who provided a glimpse into the future of rock ’n’ roll solo performances. He surrounded himself by talented back up artists. His stay in Europe lasted for the rest of his life, with occasional trips to the US. One of his last visits to his home country was in 1971 when he recorded four new songs. He recorded four more in Britian for an upcoming album, but just a few weeks later, on October 12, 1971, he died suddenly of a stomach ulcer.

Gene Vincent was 36 years old at the time of his death.

 

JOHNNY CASH

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash…”

Wild applause erupted. It always did. The familiar pickings of a set of tasty guitar licks segued into the same song he always began with after the same salutation he always delivered.

I hear the train a comin’
It’s rolling ‘round the bend
And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when,
I’m stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin’ on
But that train keeps a rollin’ on down to San Antone..
-Folsom Prison Blues

The deep sadness and irony that permeated the lyrics are in direct contrast to the rockabilly rhythm accompanying it, a trademark Johnny Cash style. In fact, Cash “borrowed” the melody and many of the lyrics from another song, and later paid the writer $75,000 in an out of court settlement. Cash recorded “Folsom Prison Blues” in 1955 for his debut album and re-recorded it thirteen years later in 1968 live at Folsom Prison. “FPB” didn’t become a hit until then.

When I was just a baby my mama told me, son,
Always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry..
-Folsom Prison Blues

The lyrics were shocking, with an underlying tone of desperation that reverberated in the souls of anyone who had ever been incarcerated and appreciates personal freedom. The callousness of killing a man to watch him die was explained by Cash years later.

“I sat with my pen in my hand, trying to think up the worst reason a person could have for killing another person, and that’s what came to mind.” –Johnny Cash

Although Johnny Cash soon veered towards more of a country sound than rock ‘n’ roll, his contribution to the early sounds through rockabilly are instrumental. Cash has also always been closely associated with rock music over the years.

Contrary to what many people may think, Cash is his real surname, not a stage name. His stage name happens to be Johnny. His parents named him J.R. simply because, according to legend, his parents could not think of a name for him. I suppose they couldn’t think of naming him after his father Ray for some inexplicable reason, that’s why this seems like a tall tale. But the fact remains that his given name when Cash was born was J.R., so Cash named himself John when he enlisted in the Air Force and changed it to Johnny when he signed on to Sun Records in 1955.

Johnny Cash had been exposed to gospel music since he was five, when, just like Carl Perkins at about the same time, he worked picking cotton in the fields and singing along with his dirt poor family: mom, dad and his six other brothers and sisters, who picked with him.

Cash’s first single, released in 1955, only charted in the Billboard US Country chart. His next single however, “I Walk The Line”, landed at No. 17 on the Billboard US Pop chart and No. in the Country chart, staying there for six weeks.

Originally written by Cash as a slow ballad to his new wife, Sam Phillips suggested speeding it up with a more up-tempo rockabilly groove, a freight train rhythm that later became his trademark sound, so they added a washboard to accompany Cash’s guitar. One of the notable things in the song is that he can be heard humming each time before he’s going to sing again, a necessary task in order to get the pitch he wanted with his voice, since it changes after each stanza.

Johnny Cash would follow the country and western road soon after the famous meeting at Sun in December of 1956 with Elvis, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. He charted in the Country charts practically every year from 1956 until 1990, crossing over into the Pop charts at times but not charting very high. Other notable songs released throughout his career was 1963’s “Ring of Fire”, in which he added the mariachi trumpets that made the song so distinctive.

The novelty song “A Boy named Sue” managed to reach No. in the US Pop chart in 1969.

The legendary “Man in Black” written in 1971 the night before the concert he debuted it in, referred to the reasons for his onstage wardrobe in the lyrics and received a standing ovation at the end of the heartfelt performance.

It would not have been the first time Cash dug into the rock vault. Particularly taken with the music of Bob Dylan, he sang “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964 where the two legends first met and began a long lasting friendship.

Cash often sang a duet of “It Ain’t Me, Babe” with his future second (and last) wife June Carter Cash in his 1965 album “Orange Blossom Special”.


Johnny Cash had a TV show back in the late Sixties that lasted until 1971, where he invited Dylan for one episode. Together they sang “The Girl From North Country” off of Dylan’s 1969 “Nashville Skyline” in which Cash also sings. It was Dylan’s second recorded version of his song, which he had written and sung alone for his second “Freewheelin’…” album in 1963.

The co-recording of the song came about when Dylan went to Nashville to record his “…Skyline” album and Johnny Cash happened to be recording next door. They had been admirers of each other’s work since they both began, and after Cash had given Dylan his own guitar as a token of his admiration at the Newport Folk Festival in ’64, they had made a special bond, at one point even living as neighbors in Woodstock, NY. Soon after that meeting, they agreed to record together, and out of the twelve songs that were recorded during those sessions, “Girl From North Country” was the song Dylan sang with Cash and opened Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” album. The other 11 songs had been buried in the mist of time and archival tape until 2012.

Johnny Cash lived 71 years, surviving his beloved wife June Carter Cash by only four months, overcoming years of drug-addiction, seeing his career slide in the 70s and augmenting his career with guest starring roles in TV dramas and films. He recorded the song “The Wanderer” for U2 in 1993 for inclusion in their “Zooropa” album.

Cash ultimately died of various illness complications in 2003, and left his recording of “Hurt” as his epitaph, a chilling look back at his own past through the lyrics of another, and a grim ending to one of the most legendary careers by a musician who will always be remembered as “The Man In Black”.

Johnny Cash’s version of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt” is a slow, bone-chilling rendition of the Nine Inch Nails song, and a sadly fitting end to his career.

What have I become/My sweetest friend/Everyone I know/Goes away in the end
And you could have it all/My empire of dirt/I will let you down/I will make you hurt
-Hurt, sung by Johnny Cash; lyrics by Trent Reznor

 

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