The Man in Black, one of the most influential country music stars of the 20th century, was the son of a farmer and was raised during the height of the Great Depression.
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One of the most memorable upswings actually happened later in his career, as Cash began collaborating with legendary producer Rick Rubin. Throughout his career, Cash often cited his faith as a source of strength, and even in his choices of covers, these themes of redemption and reinvention reappear.
As such, here are the 10 best covers by Johnny Cash. The tune takes an ambling easy pace, as Sting sings the story and a trumpet and trombone join in for an interlude. Julia Ward Howe, a writer and advocate of abolition if not equality made the tune more political when she added lyrics.
The reframed words reinforced the concept of the Civil War as an ideological conflict. This song is very much in the Cash repertoire in that it could use music to highlight a moral wrong and the plight of the vulnerable.
The instrumentals are quieter with an upbeat keyboard featuring in the background. For a man as outspokenly religious as Cash, the song takes on an additional layer of depth. The growling timber in his voice adds a particular sincerity to the tone.
But Cash moves at a more ambling pace. It includes lightly picked guitar and a relentless stamping and clapping sound. Cash sings in a higher range than for the verses than in some of his other songs. They sang from an introspective place, contemplating on what they had accomplished thus far and who and where mattered most.
The song was released a year before his death and his voice had changed from time and disease. There is a hesitantly convincing vulnerability to the tone of his voice. For Cash, at this point in his life, it could be stated as truth.
Petty sings with his puckish twang as steady beats groove along in the background. His vocals are paced with a certain staccato quality that makes this tune unique.
His vocal method is a low rumble of resolution.
The song was personal to him and he was hesitant to have it inhabited by another. He plays an acoustic guitar and sings in a voice that is low and close to breaking at times, but ultimately relentless. He is frail, but resolute, and surrounded by signs and symbols of his vast legacy.
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