Johnny Cash, The Man in Black

Johnny Cash is also known as ‘The Man in Black’ due to his dark clothes. But don’t let the clothes fool you. He was not wearing black because he was depressed himself, or because he was a pessimist. He wanted justice for the poor and other people who hadn’t been dealt a fair hand in life. He makes this quite clear in his gripping song ‘The Man in Black’.

“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.

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.”

You must know that during the time he wrote this song (the single came out in 1971), the Vietnam war was raging. The sentence ‘I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been,
each week we lose a hundred fine young men’ is a reference to all the young boys whose lives were lost during their time in Vietnam. It was a war that had quite an impact on the USA. It lasted for 21 years and killed more than 1.5 million Vietnamese citizens. Many songs are written by various artist to stop this war. Including Johnny Cash. Now, what’s interesting about him, is that he’s not a pacifist, but a veteran. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War in Germany. He felt the obligation to serve his country right after he finished High School.

He did however, buy his first guitar during this war with his military pay. He began writing songs and pretty soon, he became a known artist. One of the songs he wrote during his time in Germany was ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’ His unit saw the movie ‘Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison’ which inspired Cash to write the song that became famous among inmates. He received many letters from prisoners, asking him to perform in their prison. And so he did. Cash truly is ‘The Man in Black.’

Written by Roeliene Bos

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