Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: A Man In BlackReleased: 1971Charted:
Johnny Cash always wore black clothes, and he wrote this song to help explain why: "I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town, I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, but is there because he's a victim of the times."
At first, Cash and his band wore black shirts because it was the only matching color they had in their wardrobes. Cash wore other colors on stage early in his career, but claimed to like wearing black both on and off stage.
Christian Rock band One Bad Pig recorded this on their 1991 album I Scream Sunday with Cash singing backup.
"People often say to me, 'Tell me why Johnny wore black,' Cash's drummer WS "Fluke" Holland said to Mojo magazine April 2012. "And I say it's real simple. Back then when we'd leave on tour, the longer you could wear the clothes you had on, the better it was. So if you had on black, it wouldn't show dirt as quickly as anything else."
Mojo reports Cash's eldest daughter, Rosanne, saying in 2008 that there was a deeper complexity to the song. "There's so many levels to it," she explained. "One is saying, 'I'm wearing this symbol for the downtrodden and the poor.' The other was much more subtle to me: it reflected the sadness, the convulsions, just that mythic dark night of the soul that he went through so many times."