Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Friday Night Concert: “The Man in Black”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 2, 2012

The other day I came across this recording of Johnny Cash’s first performance of “The Man in Black,” from February 1971. It’s a ragged performance, but given that he’d only finalized the lyrics a few hours before, that’s to be expected. Considering that the song was written very explicitly in reference to the current events of the day, it’s held up damn well over time. I’m not sure if that’s a credit to Cash’s insight, or an indictment of the rest of us that, as a society, we’re still dealing with many of the same, intractable problems.

The other video that’s worth your time is this recording of Cash from that same year, on the Mike Douglas show, along with James Brown. The latter, of course, was billed as “the hardest working man in show business,” but I imagine Johnny Cash could have equally claimed that title. What’s most striking about this interview is Cash’s candid discussion of his addictions, particularly to prescription drugs. He acknowledges that he’d made a previous appearance on Douglas’ show, but had no recollection of it afterward.

Today, when a celebrity going through rehab (at least once; twice is better) is as much a career strategy as it is a health issue, it’s remarkable to hear such candor.


5 Responses

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  1. Patrick Young said, on March 3, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Boy what a nervy guy, saying “the prisoner is a victim of the times”. today its only white collar criminals who deserve mercy because “everybody was doing it”.

    Thanks for putting this up. I haven’t listened to the song in a long time. Great to remember the songs of my boyhood when “country music” was Cash, The Band, and the Allman Brothers.

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