Why Johnny Cash was the Man in Black

Johnny Cash always dressed in black, unlike most the gaudy outfits, sometimes with rhinestones, worn by other country-western singers.

He composed the song, “The Man in Black,” after talking to students at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and first performed it to an all-student audience at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Feb. 17, 1971.  Here are the lyrics.

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,

why you never see bright colors on my back,

and why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.

Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

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.

I wear the black for those who never read

or listened to the words that Jesus said

about the road to happiness through love and charity.

Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,

in our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes.

But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,

up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,

for the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold.

I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been.

Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,

believen’ that the Lord was on their side.

I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,

believen’ that we all were on their side.

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,

and things need changin’ everywhere you go.

But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,

you’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,

and tell the world that everything’s OK.

But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back.

‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.


Johnny Cash biography in brief.

When Pat Buchanan Brought Johnny Cash to the Nixon White House by Jack Hunter for The American Conservative.

Johnny Cash pilgrimage: The Man In Black’s social justice legacy by John Dick for People’s World.

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One Response to “Why Johnny Cash was the Man in Black”

  1. Fred (Au Naturel) Says:

    He was the very best of America.


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