Johnny Cash – American IV – The Man Comes Around

At the end of his life Johnny Cash recorded a multi-album project.  Listening to this album it’s unmistakable that we’re listening to a man at the end of his life.  His voice is in tatters but for some of these songs it’s actually quite effective.  The songs were a very divergent group that crossed over popular styles that spanned generations.  There’s everything from modern songs like Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” to old standards like “Danny Boy” and “We’ll Meet Again.”  And he included pop songs from the 1960s and 1970s like the Beatles’ “In My Life,” the Eagles’ “Desperado” and Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”  He also includes several country western standards like “Sam Hall” and “Streets of Laredo.”  But the highlight of the album is the title song “The Man Comes Around.”  It’s a dark vision of the Judgement Day.  Cash claims that some of the lines came to him in a strange dream.  I listen to this song when I’m feeling particularly pessimistic about the future.

Not all the songs work for me.  And I’ll guess that not everyone will agree with my picks but here they are:

  • The Man Comes Around
  • I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
  • Streets of Laredo
  • Sam Hall

For older die-hard fans of Cash this will be a bitter-sweet experience because of the circumstances of this music.  But I think the title song is a very stirring song that’s worth a listen by country music fans.

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War Pig
War Pig
1 year ago

For me it is “Hurt”. He poured his soul into that song.

My favorite early songs of his were the funny ones. “I Got It One Piece At A Time”, “Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog”, “I’ve Been Everywhere” and “Boy Named Sue”.

My favorite song of his and June’s is “Vietnam” because I fought in that war.

1 year ago
Reply to  War Pig

I have to say “Hurt” was my favorite here. I first heard Cash’s rendition before I learned it was a Nine Inch Nails cover. Honestly, their version doesn’t work for me the same way Cash’s does, but knowing the circumstances around Trent Reznor when he wrote the song it’s difficult to “dislike” it.

1 year ago
Reply to  photog

I think the video that Cash did with it adds to that feeling of gritty realism. He honestly looked like he regretted many of the choices he made in his life.