I See A Darkness

Album: American III: Solitary Man (2000)

Songfacts®:

  • This was written by the American singer-songwriter Will Oldham. He recorded it for the title track of his 1999 sixth album, the first on which he used his 'Bonnie Prince Billy' moniker. Oldham provided background vocals for Cash's Rick Rubin produced version, which can be found on American III: Solitary Man.
  • Oldham recalled Cash covering his song to Mojo October 2013: "I actually heard about my song being on the album from a friend of mine who plays guitar with me," he said; "He'd talked to Rick Rubin who said, 'Oh yeah, Johnny Cash just recorded I see a darkness.' A couple of weeks later I met Rick and we arranged I could meet Johnny Cash. And when I did, Johnny said, 'I want to redo my vocals on that song, Why don't we work on it together? That was really exciting, and we did it that same day, worked together on 'I See a Darkness.'"

    "It was a situation we were both very comfortable with, which is working on music," Oldham continued. "We only spoke when we had something to say that the other person wanted to hear, so it was one of the few times when I actually felt I was in the correct company. And that's not trying to give myself excessive grace. He would ask the questions about the song; a couple of grammatical questions he wanted to clear up."
  • Cash's health prior to the recording of American III: Solitary Man had been poor and he'd even been hospitalized for pneumonia. The album contained the Man in Black's response to his illness. Mojo asked Oldham if he felt spooky that someone who was seriously ill was singing about darkness? He replied: "No, it didn't, because the song is about seeing darkness and asking for friendship and support... it seemed good he was singing the song...at that time (it seemed like) an essential statement."

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