JOHNNY CASH - Ring of Fire
Again from multiple levels of interest here, not least songs of classic importance and an early influence the master John Cash was introduced to me by my brother Steve and he bought 'Live at Folsom Prison' when it came out over here . . . . . . . it had a strange affect upon me and the song about shooting a man just to watch him die always made me feel uncomfortable as I was by then even a committed pacifist. I dug deeper and realised he had never even been arrested for any such crime, let alone done time, made me re-think things, and finding he had an ambivalent relationship with his 'god' was unusual given his self confessed pill addiction and drink and drug use.
To discover him again later on through Ry Cooder covers [Get Rhythm, Don't Take Your Guns To Town etc) was an added bonus and the Highwaymen had a strong affect upon me again and in later years I collected many bootlegs of Cash and his wife June Carter (from The Carter family no less) Later still upon his death bed and coming up with his finest swan song was maybe the most impressive recording I had ever heard at that time.
On this day in music history: April 19, 1963 - “Ring Of Fire” by Johnny Cash is released. Written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore, it is the thirty-eighth single release for the country music icon from Kingsland, AR. By the early 60’s, Johnny Cash is spiraling out of control, due to a heavy dependence on prescription pills and alcohol. At the same time, his marriage to first wife Vivian Liberto is also beginning to come apart, due to his frantic work schedule and multiple affairs with other women. Even with all of these personal issues, it does not slow down Cash’s creative output. During this time, the singer becomes reacquainted with June Carter, the daughter of Mother Maybelle Carter of the famed Carter Family. While on tour with The Carter Family, Johnny and June quickly become friends, and that friendship eventually blossoms into a mutual infatuation. It moves Carter to write about those feelings, also taking inspiration from a book of Elizabethan poetry owned by her uncle A.P. Carter. One poem includes the line “love is like a burning ring of fire…”, which provides the initial idea June to develop it into a song. Collaborating with songwriter Merle Kilgore, the pair write “Ring Of Fire”. Carter gives the song to her sister Anita, whose folk like reading is recorded and released in January of 1963. When it fails to become a hit, Johnny decides to record it himself, with some immediately distinctive touches. Liking it from the outset, but not its original arrangement, Cash has a dream about the song being accompanied by “Mexican horns”. Given a loping and galloping rhythm, the singer’s version of “Ring Of Fire”, complete with a mariachi horn section, is recorded at Columbia’s Nashville recording studio on March 25, 1963. Released only three weeks later, the song is a smash, spending seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Country singles chart beginning on July 27, 1963. “Fire” also crosses over to the Hot 100 chart, peaking at #17 on the same date it tops the country chart, and is his first top 40 pop hit since “Ballad Of A Teenage Queen”. Recognized as one of his signature songs, “Ring Of Fire” is covered by a wide variety of artists, including Eric Burdon & The Animals, Olivia Newton-John, Blondie, Wall Of Voodoo, Dwight Yoakam, Social Distortion, and Alan Jackson to name a few. Years later, the writing credits are disputed by Cash’s ex-wife Vivian, who claims that Cash had actually written it himself “while high on pills and booze”. Liberto then also claims Johnny had given the writing co-credit to June Carter “because she needed the money”, though this has never been proven as being true. Widely revered as one of the greatest country singles of all time, Johnny Cash’s version of “Ring Of Fire” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999. “Ring Of Fire” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
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