God's Gonna Cut You Down

Album: American V: A Hundred Highways (2006)
Charted: 77

Songfacts®:

  • First recorded by the Golden Gate Quartet in 1947, this traditional American folk tune warns evildoers of God's inescapable wrath. Johnny Cash recorded his version in 2003, and it was released as the lead single from his posthumously released #1 album, American V: A Hundred Highways, in 2006.
  • The star-studded music video was directed by Tony Kaye ("Runaway Train," "Dani California"), but the idea came from Justin Timberlake. The concept came to him while he was listening to Cash's album with producer Rick Rubin while on a break in the recording studio. When they got to this track, Timberlake told Rubin - who also produced American V - the video should feature celebrities wearing Cash's signature black as a tribute to the late singer. Nearly 40 stars appear in the black-and-white clip, including Timberlake, Iggy Pop, Kanye West, Bono, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Chili Peppers Anthony Kiedis and Flea, Adam Levine, Keith Richards, Sheryl Crow, Graham Nash, Mick Jones, and Johnny Depp, among others.

    Footage was shot in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Amsterdam, and features close-up shots of the black-clad celebs, whose expressions capture the emotion of hearing the song (some of them, like a teary-eyed Shelby Lynne, for the first time). "Each person got to design their own moment," Rubin told MTV. "But Tony was looking more for the instant emotional impact than a pre-planned skit. Nobody was asked to lip-sync, so pretty much everything was spontaneous."
  • This won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video in 2008.
  • Artists from a variety of genres have been drawn to the vengeful track, which is known by several different titles. Gospel group The Jubalaires released it as "God Almighty's Gonna Cut You Down" in 1947; Bill Landford & The Landfordaires covered it as "Run On For A Long Time" in 1950; Elvis Presley's rendition went by "Run On" in 1967; and Bobbie Gentry issued "Sermon" in 1968. Blues-folk singer Odetta also covered it as "God's Gonna Cut You Down" in 1957, as well as Paula Cole on her 2021 album, American Quilt.
  • Marilyn Manson recorded a Gothic-country version (titled "God's Gonna Cut You Down") during the sessions for their 2017 album, Heaven Upside Down, but it wasn't included on the release. It ended up on the soundtrack to Ethan Hawke's movie 24 Hours To Live that same year and, in 2019, was issued as a digital download and streaming single. It peaked at #8 on the Hot Rock Songs chart and #1 on the Rock Digital Songs Chart.
  • In Major League Baseball, Cash's version is used as entrance music for relief pitchers Andrew Miller of the St. Louis Cardinals and Cody Allen of the Los Angeles Angels. Kansas City Royals closer Brad Boxberger also uses it as his song of choice.
  • Cash's version appears in these TV shows:

    Juda ("Traineth My Hands for War, and My Fingers for Battle" - 2017)
    The Blacklist ("The Director (No. 24): Conclusion" - 2016)
    Gotham ("What The Little Bird Told Him" - 2015)
    Dallas ("Revelations" - 2012)
  • Moby sampled Bill Landford's rendition on his 1999 single "Run On" from his album Play.

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