I should have been a Johnny Cash fan, but I wasn’t.  He was another Arkansan, had an outsider reputation, and had come up through hard knocks.  On the other hand, his rich baritone voice lacked something; accuracy.  I bought his duet album with Bob Dylan.  It was almost painful to listen to it.  Waylon Jennings, who was Cash’s roommate at one time, described Cash as a “song stylist” rather than a singer.

And then, by sheer accident, looking for something else, I found this:

Sometimes a song stylist is exactly what is needed.  It was one of Johnny’s last recordings.  What a way to go out.

“Hurt” was written in 1993 by Trent Reznor and performed by Nine Inch Nails.  It was performed in 1996 by Johnny Cash. When Reznor heard Cash’s interpretation he said, “That song isn’t mine anymore.”

The “unplugged” version recorded as a single by Reznor is musically interesting.  However, I found the writer’s version a little sweet compared to Cash’s raw emotional rendering.

This song seems current considering the problem with America's opioid epidemic.

I don’t know what I was listening to in the early 90s, but it wasn’t Nine Inch Nails or Johnny Cash.  Glad I stumbled onto this.

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Comment by lorianne on March 24, 2018 at 2:31pm

One of my favorite JC covers is of Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus. He made that song his own as well. I find his version haunting.

Comment by koshersalaami on March 24, 2018 at 3:01pm

I like Cash's version of Hurt because there's an extent to which it's an old person's song. It has a retrospective quality. 

Comment by Maui Surfer on March 24, 2018 at 7:39pm

The song is a masterpiece, and Cash a master. I bought Live at San Quentin back in the sixties and have always been more than just a fan, but a true appreciator of the man. The song fits his last days, the lyrics just do, even though Reznor didn't start out to do that, it is true fair use of art, made even better. That said, if you have never seen Nine Inch Nails live I can tell you it was one of the last times I felt like a real punk, their show was beyond electric live in Honolulu, it was nuclear, with the surfers and skaters exploding in a mosh pit like a den of Pythons.

Comment by Rodney Roe on March 25, 2018 at 3:26am

kosh and maui, maybe it is the retrospective feel that pulled me in.  maui, "a mosh pit like a en of pythons".  I don't know what a "mosh pit" is but the imagery is wonderful.

lorianne, thanks for commenting.  Depeche Mode I'm familiar with because my older daughter loved them.  Thanks for JCs version.  Like, Hurt, he made it his own, more poignant interpretation.

FM, thanks.  I agree about the voice.  I liked his voice. It got more gravelly with age which just gave it more character.  I didn't mind his phrasing which was unique as it is with singers as varied as Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, but the fact that he just came close to a note, often, and realized it, but had trouble finding it.  I wonder, though, if that wasn't also part of his attraction.  Like a lot of other things about him, it was imperfect.

About "rode hard and hung up wet"; I grew up in rodeo country.  I think that's "rode hard and put up wet".  Not taking the time to let a lathered horse walk and cool down and then get washed off is a no no.  The horse can "tie up" or even die of heat stroke.

Cash did have that look.  His song lyric about putting on his "cleanest dirty shirt" speaks to that.  No money and not enough down time.

Comment by Rodney Roe on March 25, 2018 at 3:32am

And speaking of horses, here is a remastered version of Depeche Mode's video, Personal Jesus.


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