The life of Cash

Johnny Cash during a meeting with Richard Nixon in the White House in July of 1972. Photo taken by Ollie Atkins. (Cash left, Nixon right)

Johnny Cash covered the song “Hurt” in 2002, and released the song in March of the following year. Nine Inch Nails originally performed “Hurt” in 1995. Cash changed up a few lines of the song to make “Hurt” his own. Cash uses only a guitar, piano, and his voice. 

     “Hurt,” one of his last songs released before his death. Recaps his life’s struggles and his own flaws.

     The song begins with a slow guitar and the words “I hurt myself today/to see if I still feel” these opening words reflect on how Cash is doing in his life at the moment. Cash was talking about how he has felt unhappy for much of his life. His unhappiness in life is related to his drug use throughout his life of fame. Maybe Cash has not been able to feel since he began his substance abuse?

     “Try to kill it all away/but I remember everything” these are the words which Cash sings before the guitar beat begins to get louder and faster. Cash follows these words with “What have I become/my sweetest friend/everyone I know goes away in the end.” 

     Cash is talking about his struggle in life with keeping his friends and family with him. His first marriage ended in divorce, followed by his second wife dying months before Cash’s death. In Cash’s music video when the line “Goes away in the end” is sung a framed photograph of Cash’s ex-wife appears on the wall, backing up my statement that the people he loves often end up leaving. 

Photo of Johnny Cash and his son, John Carter Cash, in 1975. Photo from Wikimedia.

    “You could have it all/my empire of dirt.” Cash is  using the words “you could have it all” to speak on his ex wife and current wife about giving them all his money and goods, but in reality it is just a pile of dirt. Cash is speaking about how his money and fame is no good because of how it made him feel. 

“I will let you down/I will make you hurt.”

Cash sings in his song hurt

     Cash, talking to his family and friends reflecting on his life. Cash realizes that he has not been the best person and has constantly let his closest friends down. From his first wife whom he cheated on, to his kids who suffered from their dads absence and alcohol addiction. 

     A line which Cash rewrote and added from the original version is “I wear this crown of thorns/upon my liar’s chair.” These final words reflect Cash’s life and his song “Hurt.” The crown of thorns compares him to Jesus. The only difference between the two is Cash sitting on a liar’s chair, alluding to the lies which Cash often said during his life. Cash believes he should not be praised like he is because of the actions he did while in power.

     The song ends with “If I could start again/A million miles away/I would keep myself/I would find a way” These words are Cash saying he would change his life if he could go back and restart. Cash would fix his mistakes and lead a life without fame.

Cash and his song “Hurt” are definitely still relevant today. Cash’s voice has transcended through generations. A testimony to Cash’s success is the excessive amount of fan made websites on Cash. His devoted fans have surely not died. Some may say his fan base has grown as the new generation grows to love Cash the same way people did 20 years ago.

Author: Grayson Walker '21

Grayson Walker ‘21 is a student in the journalism seminar. Walker is an avid reader of music and sports journalism. Walker loves to write his own journalistic pieces about music and sports. In addition to writing, Walker is the captain of the water polo team, a member of the baseball team, and will be attending Dickinson College while playing baseball there. x