by Julian Spivey
Johnny Cash is possibly the most iconic performer in country music history. His discography is filled with classic after classic. Here are his 10 best songs:
10. “Big River”
“Big River” was one of Cash’s most notable recordings during his Sun Records days in the ‘50s. The song is a great example of Cash’s rockabilly sound that allowed him favor with both country and rock audiences – something that lasted throughout his career.
“Jackson,” a duet Cash did with his wife June Carter in 1967, is perhaps the greatest duet in the history of country music. The song is about a married couple whose relationship has lost a little of its “fire” and wants to one up the other on the town in Jackson. The song won Johnny and June a Grammy in 1968 for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group.
8. “Hey Porter”
“Hey Porter” was the very first song Cash ever released in his career in early 1955 with Sun Records and it still remains one of the absolute best he’s ever recorded. Cash went to Sun Records in hopes of being a gospel singer, but Sun owner Sam Phillips wanted another Elvis Presley type. Cash scribbled down the train song “Hey Porter” and a superstar was soon born.
7. “I Still Miss Someone”
Cash recorded “I Still Miss Someone” for the first time as the B-side to his 1958 hit “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” and the song would become one of the most heartbreaking and best vocals of his career. The tune about not quite being able to get over a lost love would be played often live by Cash and the best recorded version of it is likely the abbreviated one on the live At Folsom Prison album from 1968.
6. “I Walk the Line”
“I Walk the Line” became Cash’s first career No. 1 hit when it topped the Billboard country chart in 1956. It was also a crossover hit for Cash reaching the top 20 on the pop chart. The love song is one of the most famous and greatest in the country music genre about a man’s undying love and devotion to his wife.
“Hurt,” the last song Johnny Cash released before his death in 2003, is his most notable release of his later career. Cash had this amazing way of turning cover songs into his own by putting his own spin on them and he takes this hard rock Nine Inch Nails track and truly turns it into classic Cash. It was a perfect swan song.
4. “Man in Black”
“Man in Black” was essentially Cash’s theme song. The song explained what many had always wondered, “Why did Johnny Cash always wear black?” “Man in Black” was one of Cash’s finest statement songs in which he explains he wears the black as a form of protest against all that’s wrong in the world.
3. “Sunday Morning Coming Down”
“Sunday Morning Coming Down,” a No. 1 for Johnny Cash in 1970, is one of the all-time great story songs about a man just feeling absolutely down and depressed with the world. The song would win Song of the Year at the 1970 CMA Awards and helped make songwriter Kris Kristofferson a superstar.
2. “Ring of Fire”
“Ring of Fire,” a No. 1 for Cash in 1963, came out of the relationship he and fellow singer June Carter were experiencing in the early ‘60s. Carter co-wrote the song with Merle Kilgore and Cash turned it into the biggest hit of his career. One of the greatest country songs ever came as the result of a true, burning love and desire.
1. “Folsom Prison Blues”
Cash’s greatest song was “Folsom Prison Blues.” The song was originally released in 1956, but didn’t become a huge hit until 1968 when a live version was released on At Folsom Prison. Cash always considered the song of a man living life behind bars and dreaming of catching a passing train to freedom to be his signature song. Not only was it his signature song, but it’s arguably one of the five greatest country songs ever recorded.