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Top 10 Johnny Cash Songs of All Time

Top 10 Johnny Cash Songs of All Time
Johnny Cash in 1965 Silver Screen Collection / Contributor/Getty

Despite many Johnny Cash songs dwelling on themes of failure and misfortune, his career itself was anything but. From the moment his debut album, With His Hot and Blue Guitar, hit the shelves in 1957, Cash captivated fans with his storytelling about life’s struggles.

Throughout his life, Cash was married twice, most famously to June Carter Cash. They were married from 1968 until his death in 2003 and had one son, John Carter Cash, together.

Musically, Cash’s career was prolific. He released 71 albums and 170 singles, garnering 13 Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. In June 2024, a posthumous album titled Songwriter was released, featuring 11 songs Cash had written and recorded as demos but never completed.

When asked why he chose to issue Songwriter, his son John Carter Cash said, “When he recorded this, with the way that it was recorded, I don’t know if he ever intended on it being an ‘album.’ But when you have these amazing vocals and the great presentation of all original Johnny Cash songs, and his guitar, that’s what we had. The question was, how do we under-produce it, to let it be an album that works in a way that’s right, without being trite, and add the music that he would’ve added if he was here?”

However, let’s focus on the iconic songs Johnny Cash released during his lifetime. Below are the ten best Johnny Cash songs:

“Man In Black” (1971): This song, written and produced by Cash, references his distinctive on-stage attire, which earned him the nickname “The Man in Black.” It was also the opening track on the 2020 posthumous album, Johnny Cash and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Ragged Old Flag” (1974): Though just over three minutes long and primarily spoken-word, “Ragged Old Flag” stands out as one of Cash’s best songs. It appeared on the Ragged Old Flag album, addressing various political issues of the time. Cash himself penned the song.

“Don’t Take Your Guns To Town” (1958): Featured on The Fabulous Johnny Cash, this song tells the tale of Billy Joe’s quest for freedom and independence. It topped the country music chart for six weeks.

“A Boy Named Sue” (1969): Written by Shel Silverstein, this track was popularized by Cash after being recorded live for the At San Quentin album. It spent three weeks at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

“[Ghost] Riders in the Sky” (1979): Written by Stan Jones and performed by Cash, this song narrates the tale of a cowboy urged to mend his ways to avoid a doomed fate. It’s a beautifully crafted story prompting listeners to reevaluate their life choices.

“Sunday Morning Coming Down” (1970): Originally written by Kris Kristofferson, Cash introduced his version on The Johnny Cash Show. The song hit number one on the Billboard country chart and earned Cash a Country Music Association Award for Song of the Year in 1970.

“Cocaine Blues” (1968): Performed at his 1968 Folsom Prison concert, Cash modified some lyrics specifically for the event. He later performed it in 1969 at Madison Square Garden, and that version was included in the 2002 album Johnny Cash at Madison Square Garden.

“Folsom Prison Blues” (1955): One of Cash’s early hits, written by Cash himself, this song appeared on the 1957 album Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar!. He famously performed it during his 1968 live concert at Folsom Prison. The live version reached number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male.

“I Walk The Line” (1956): This track gave Cash his first number one hit on the Billboard charts and has remained one of his most iconic songs. It was also featured on the album Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar!. The song is deeply personal, contributing to its timeless appeal.

“Ring Of Fire” (1963): Originally written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore for Anita Carter, it was Cash who brought “Ring of Fire” to immense popularity in 1963. The song topped the country charts for seven weeks and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Even years after his passing, Johnny Cash’s music continues to resonate, demonstrating the timeless nature of his work.

Source: Various