What a legend, right?
Johnny Cash is one of the originals. He pioneered the mix of country, rock, blues, folk and gospel music with a rebellious style. As one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, it's fitting that we pay homage to one of his most iconic songs.
Cash wrote "Man In Black" as a protest. He was protesting many of the controversial issues buzzing through the world during the 1960's and 1970's. He was famously referred to as 'The Man In Black' because of his distinctive style and demeanor on stage. He owned the image, but he used it as a way to voice his concerns as well.
In this live performance, Cash plays "Man In Black" for the first time. He explains to the crowd that he had recently visited the Vanderbilt University campus and spoke with college students about issues of race, drugs, and politics. After those conversations he was inspired to write the song which, in his own words, "reflects the way I feel about a lot of things".
Cash officially recorded the song on February 16, 1971 and it peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
Watch the historic live performance below.
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.
I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.
Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.
I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.
And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.
Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.
Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.
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