Man In Black

Album: A Man In Black (1971)
Charted: 58
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • 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
    >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jesse - San Jose, CA
  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Edna - Madrid, Spain
  • The 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."

Comments: 13

  • Jeremy from CalAre there any metaphors in this song?
  • Rob Base from TexasI was watching an old Western movie called Pioneer Justice. The villain says “I want you to kill the man in black”...I’m thinking Johnny watched this at some point and it got filed away in his memory and ended up being the title to the song whether he remembers it or not...
  • Tan from NvWow!! I did not know he was closely related and felt out pain. Kudos for him. Love an American Indian.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 28th 1971, Johnny Cash was the surprised guest of honor on the NBC-TV program 'This Is Your Life'...
    Two weeks later on March 14th his "Man In Black" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #80; two weeks later on March 28th it would peak at #58 {for 3 weeks} and it stayed on the chart for 6 weeks...
    It reached #3 on Billboard's Hot Country Tracks chart, and #2 on the Canadian RPM Country Singles chart.
    The song was track five on Johnny's 38th studio album, 'A Man In Black', and the album would peak at #1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart...
    One other track from the album, "Singin' in Vietnam Talkin' Blues", would also make the Country Singles chart, it peak at #18.
  • Chomper03 from Chambersburg, PaAs stated in his Autobiography, "Man In Black", it says that the reason Johhny Cash wore black is because he once shot a man in self defense, and regretted it. So he made a vow that from that point on, he would wear the color black for the rest of his life.
  • Linda from San Luis Obispo, CaMan in Black should accompany our "National Anthem" for the USA. Elitist versus non-elitist personified. Tribute to Johnny Cash live production in SLO, CA at Little Theatre was better than any Broadway Production could have been with the talented actors/musicians who portrayed Johnny's tortured life. Artists must tell their story their way-a fact of life. Linda
  • Mike from Matawan, NjSo....John from Mansfield, TX. A 'Neocon' can't like this song, understand it's meaning and love his country too? Whewwww. And you Dem's like to say conservatives label people? So much for the party of 'nuance', eh?
  • Jack from Oranevale, CaI am a huge fan of Johnny Cash!!! So much so that I have recently formed a Johnny Cash Tribute Band called, "California's Cash Only Band". Below is the url for those you that would like to hear us. Thank you for yourof time! Sincerely, Jack Azbill and California's Cash Only Band.

    http://www.gigmasters.com/johnnycashtributeact/California'sCashOnlyBand/
  • Tyler from Ashland, KyI saw an interview between Johnny Cash and Larry King. He said this song didn't exactly explain why he wears black, he really wears it because he's comfortable in it.
  • Don from Fairfield, OhLiving in the hopeless, hungry side of town. Cash never forget where he came from and he had an attitude of gratitude for his properity. And, since his life was such an open book, we all knew full well what his demons where. We were fortunate enough for him to bring us much joy as he did.
  • Pablo from Lubbock, Txi like the movies and the song
  • Jakob from Watauga Texas, Tx"I wear it for the poor and beaten down..living in the hopless hungary side of town" johnny cash hade a way of speaking to people in a true voice. you should all take the time to listen to his freight train voice that revolutinized country music. "id love to wear a rainbow every day and tell the world that everything is ok"
  • John from Mansfield, TxYou know,everytime some Neocon plays"God Bless The USA"by Lee greenwood,immediately aftyer that,he should be forced to listen to"Man In black"!!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Vanessa Carlton

Vanessa CarltonSongwriter Interviews

The "A Thousand Miles" singer on what she thinks of her song being used in White Chicks and how she captured a song from a dream.

Stand By Me: The Perfect Song-Movie Combination

Stand By Me: The Perfect Song-Movie CombinationSong Writing

In 1986, a Stephen King novella was made into a movie, with a classic song serving as title, soundtrack and tone.

Jules Shear - "All Through The Night"

Jules Shear - "All Through The Night"They're Playing My Song

Shears does very little promotion, which has kept him secluded from the spotlight. What changed when Cyndi Lauper had a hit with his song? Not much, really.

Chris Squire of Yes

Chris Squire of YesSongwriter Interviews

One of the most dynamic bass player/songwriters of his time, Chris is the only member of Yes who has been with the band since they formed in 1968.

Penny Ford of Snap!

Penny Ford of Snap!Songwriter Interviews

The original voice of Snap! this story is filled with angry drag queens, video impersonators and Chaka Khan.

Second Wind Songs

Second Wind SongsSong Writing

Some songs get a second life when they find a new audience through a movie, commercial, TV show, or even the Internet.