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Elmore’s Top Johnny Cash Songs

Johnny Cash's firt album, With His Hot and Blue Guitar, released in 1955, was the first of 96 studio albums.
Johnny Cash’s first album, With His Hot and Blue Guitar, released in 1955, was the first of 96 studio albums.

Johnny Cash was born on this day in 1932. In honor of what would have been the Man in Black’s 82nd birthday, Elmore has compiled a list of our favorite lesser-known Johnny Cash tracks. We’ve all heard “Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues” hundreds of time, but check out these:

Bordering on spoken word, this cover of “Mean as Hell” is from Cash’s 1965 album, Sings the Ballads of the True West.

Cash’s version of “The Gambler” was technically recorded before Kenny Rogers’, although it was released on his album Gone Girl in December 1978. Rogers’ version had been released in August of that year, and went on to be wildly successful for him, relegating Cash’s version to the annals of country music history.

“Life Goes On” dates from Cash’s tenth studio album, Now Here’s Johnny Cash, released in 1961.

“The Wreck of the Old 97” is from Cash’s 1956 debut (and the first-ever release on Sun Records), With His Hot and Blue Guitar, better known for “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Cry! Cry! Cry!” and “Walk the Line.” 

Most of Cash’s covers give a moroseness and gravity to the originals, to various effects. Compared with Marty Robbins’ original, Cash bring a different feel to the ballad. This track comes from the 2003 compilation Unearthed.

This recording of Cash and Bob Dylan’s duet of “Girl from North Country” is from Cash’s television show The Johnny Cash Show. The song itself was written by Dylan and released on his 1969 album Nashville Skyline.

One of the last songs Cash ever wrote, “The Man Comes Around” was released on American IV: The Man Comes Around in 2002, the last album Cash released before his death in 2003. 

Cash’s take on the classic southern spiritual, “The Great Speckled Bird” comes from his 1959 album Songs of our Soil.

“Orange Blossom Special” was a hit when it was released on the album of the same name in 1965, but Cash’s guttural train impressions and energy deserve a second listen.

Finally, “Aloha Oe” is the last track on Cash’s posthumous American VI: Ain’t No Grave, recorded during the last recording sessions of Cash’s life.

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