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Man In Black

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Editors’ Notes

Johnny Cash had a lot on his mind when he released Man in Black in 1971. Though many of his recordings touched on issues of social justice and personal redemption, this album is a particularly eloquent statement about the human condition. Cash fuses his populist politics and religious faith seamlessly, reaching out to both the political left and right in the process. His self-written tunes are consistently strong here, whether he’s confronting sin and suffering in tandem with Billy Graham (“The Preacher Said, ‘Jesus Said’”), painting a nuanced portrait of an outlaw (“Ned Kelly”), or speaking on behalf of an abandoned prisoner (“Dear Mrs.”). Especially powerful are “Singin’ in Viet Nam Talkin’ Blues” (inspired by a trip to the front lines) and the title number (an explanation of Cash’s somber taste in clothes). Cover tunes like “Orphan of the Road” and “If Not for Love” further drive home the theme of compassion for the underdog. The album’s serious mood lightens on “Look for Me,” a sparkling gospel tune sung with June Carter Cash. By turns angry, reflective, and exalted, Man in Black ranks among Cash’s most thoughtful and heartfelt works.


Born: February 26, 1932 in Kingsland, AR

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Johnny Cash was one of the most imposing and influential figures in post-World War II country music. With his deep, resonant baritone and spare percussive guitar, he had a basic, distinctive sound. Cash didn't sound like Nashville, nor did he sound like honky tonk or rock & roll. He created his own subgenre, falling halfway between the blunt emotional honesty of folk, the rebelliousness of rock & roll, and the world-weariness of country. Cash's career coincided with the birth of rock &...
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