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Song of the Day: Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”

My mom was a big Johnny Cash fan, and I was regularly subjected to At Folsom Prison during my childhood. I developed a bit of a phobia around a couple of the songs, which seemed too intense and disturbing to my very young mind – like that bit in “Folsom Prison Blues” where Cash sings “I shot a man in Reno / Just to watch him die.” After a few visits to an actual prison – San Quentin in fact, which Cash later sang at in another album – all the prison songs seemed too intense to me and the whole album made me a bit uncomfortable.

I can listen to the whole thing now, and do, with great pleasure, but even when i was little I loved this song. It’s perfect for kids – maybe The Wiggles or Raffi will cover it one of these days… Or maybe not – it does have a real badass quality to it.

Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue” – from At Folsom Prison (1968)

It’s brilliant. Funny, sharp and rollicking.

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison & San Quentin: Johnny Cash had been breaking new ground for a decade when At Folsom Prison suddenly made the world at large take notice. The interaction of a volatile prison population starved for entertainment and a desperately on-form Johnny Cash was electrifying. His somber machismo finally found a home. The songs, which included every prison song Cash knew (“I Got Stripes,” “The Wall,” “25 Minutes to Go,” “Cocaine Blues,” plus his own “Folsom Prison Blues”) were tailored to galvanize the crowd. This set is all about atmosphere. Live at the Grand Ole Opry this ain’t. (via A small selection of whatever fills my head!)

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Filed under: Song of the Day, ,

2 Responses

  1. Andy says:

    Written of course by the wonderful Shel Silverstein. But did you know that he wrote a sequel to it called Father of a Boy Called Sue? Can’t find the Silverstein version, but youtube has a few covers of it, such as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Egxxs9EFaeQ

    • zerode says:

      I did not know that – thanks. Silverstein is wonderful and I’ve enjoyed a bunch of his stuff and now that you say that, I can certainly see it. I don’t pay as much attention to who wrote songs as I think I should. It gets me into trouble – I’ll assume some version of a song is a “cover” since the one I know is the famous one, but that cover will turn out to be the original.

      With things like Motown, it often helps explain similarities – you find that songs you like recorded by a bunch of different artists were all written by the same people (and often recorded with the same instrumentalists as well).

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh - and hello to Jason Isaacs.

The 400 Blows

zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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