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The Darkest Performance by Johnny Cash

With his voice giving out, Johnny Cash gave a rousing, sometimes joyous rendition of Cocaine Blues in his famous 1968 Folsom Prison concert. Best known from that concert was Folsom Prison Blues, with Cash delivering its signature line, “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.”

Much darker than that song is Cocaine Blues, originally written by T. J. “Red” Arnall, and reworked by Cash to fit his convict audience. I was not aware of this performance until recently, probably because it never received air play.

Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, and Soundgarden have all performed songs about killing women; perhaps it shouldn’t shock me that Johnny Cash did, too. Those other songs, though, are tinged with regret and melancholy. The only regret Cash’s character expresses is at getting caught.

I’m not aware that any film of this performance exists.


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By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

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