There are so many Johnny Cash songs that I grew up listening to and enjoying, but I managed to narrow this post down to 2. I can tell you already that I'm going to need to post about Johnny Cash again in the future to talk about some of his other songs.
Cash was known for his deep bass-baritone voice, distinctive sound of his Tennessee Three backing band, a rebelliousness coupled with an increasingly somber and humble demeanor, free prison concerts, and trademark look, which earned him the nickname "The Man in Black". He traditionally began his concerts with the simple "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.", followed by his signature "Folsom Prison Blues".
"I Walk the Line", "Folsom Prison Blues", "Ring of Fire", "Get Rhythm" and "Man in Black". He also recorded humorous numbers like "One Piece at a Time" and "A Boy Named Sue"; a duet with his future wife, June Carter, called "Jackson"; and railroad songs including "Hey, Porter" and "Rock Island Line". During the last stage of his career, Cash covered songs by several late 20th-century rock artists, most notably "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails.
"I Walk the Line" became his first number one Billboard hit. The single remained on the record charts for over 43 weeks, and sold over 2 million copies. The unique chord progression for the song was inspired by backwards playback of guitar runs on Cash's tape recorder while he was in the Air Force stationed in Germany. Later in a telephone interview, Cash stated, “I wrote the song backstage one night in 1956 in Gladewater, Texas. I was newly married at the time, and I suppose I was laying out my pledge of devotion." After the writing of the song Cash had a discussion with fellow performer Carl Perkins who encouraged him to adopt "I Walk the Line" as the song title. Cash originally intended the song as a slow ballad, but producer Sam Phillips preferred a faster arrangement, which Cash grew to like as the uptempo recording met with success.
Once while performing the song on his TV show, Cash told the audience, with a smile, "People ask me why I always hum whenever I sing this song. It's to get my pitch." The humming was necessary since the song required Cash to change keys several times while singing it. In the original recording of the song, there is a key change between each of the five verses, and Cash hums the new root note before singing each verse. The final verse, a reprise of the first, is sung a full octave lower than the first verse. According to Cash, he loved the sound of a snare drum, but drums were not used in country music back then, so he placed a piece of paper in his guitar strings and created his own unique "snare drum".
Beginning almost immediately, he and a co-worker decide to steal a Cadillac, using their assembly line jobs to obtain the parts via salami slicing. He takes the small parts home hidden in his large lunchbox; larger parts are smuggled out in his co-worker's motor home.
The process of accumulating all the necessary parts turns out to take over 24 years (when asked what year model, the worker starts with 1949 and ends at 1973 when the song fades out), but once they have what they think is a complete car, they attempt to assemble the pieces. The result is an odd-looking Cadillac created from parts of many different models (the song mentions that the transmission was from 1953 and the engine was from 1973) and whose pieces do not fit together very well (for example, it had only one tail fin and three headlights – two on the left and one on the right, though all three headlights worked when activated).
The singer's wife is surprised at the outcome but wants a ride. However, the folks at the courthouse were not as pleased—it took the "whole staff" to type up the vehicle title, which ended up weighing 60 pounds.
The song ends with a Citizens Band radio conversation between the singer and a truck driver inquiring about the "psychobilly Cadillac", in which the singer replies, "you could say I went ... to the factory and picked it up, it's cheaper that way".