Musical Monday- Ring of Fire

Posted on Mar 12, 2012 · 2 min read

In my mind, Johnny Cash is the definition of old school rock and roll.  “Old school” not only because he was born in 1932, but also because his songs were never pigeon holed into one specific music type – he defined what musician meant.  During his long career, which ended with his death in 2003 – his music and songs paid homage to all types of musical genres: from country, to rock and roll, and even gospel, blues, and folk.

I don’t particularly like the music of Johnny Cash, but I do like the fact that so many of his songs have been covered by so many different types of bands over the years. To me, it shows how his music and message is adapted and therefore sustained through generations.  The one famous song by Johnny Cash, Ring of Fire, is a great example of this.

When I first heard the original version, which is here, I could not understand why this song was as popular as it was.  But as the song was covered by other bands, the lyrics grew on me.

A modern version, without the annoying trumpets, is performed by Joaquin Phoenix in the 2005 Academy Award winning movie “Walk The Line”.  In this version, the depth of Cash’s lyrics are supported by updated music and vocals. Wall of Voodoo covered Ring of Fire and produced a version that became both a cult classic and one bizarre tune.

My favorite cover of Ring of Fire is by Social Distortion.  In this early `90s version, the band updates the song to fit their unique sound but also stays true to the original, which has actually grown on me a bit.

I’m not sure what Johnny Cash thought of the different bands covering one of his most famous singles, but I think more bands will try this song on for size in the future.  And when they do, I’ll probably enjoy it just as much as the original.

Harry Lalor by Harry Lalor