Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt”

Posted: July 7, 2010 in Dark Art Cafe

Johnny Cash’s American V: A Hundred Highways is one of those albums I can’t listen to with anyone else. I first listened to it in an old borrowed car by a boat launch, tucked away under an old beech tree. When I came to Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” a song by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, I wanted to back further into the deep shade, to hide. At the same time the song pulls you into the pain of the singer it pushes you away, but in the song’s final shove you feel yourself pushed into a ring of light, like you’ve been stumbling shoeless in the dark and you step suddenly into a small ring of firelight. The warmth of the song is in the last lines:

“If I could start again, a million miles away, I would keep myself, I would find a way.”

There is no fly away redemption here but there is a persistance that attempts to overcome despair, heard in the staccato, arthritic striking of piano keys. The song doesn’t, in the end, overcome despair, but it does face it. If I hope for anything in my writing it is for this type of honesty. I like the song not because it’s dark and I tend towards that aesthetic, or because it is performed by the Man in Black, but because it speaks truth. Stripped, down, bare bones, ugly, but true.

View Cash’s music video of “Hurt” on YouTube:

  1. trudyj65 says:

    I love this cover. It sounds so raw and honest. Seems wrong to say it’s one of my favourite songs because it’s not a song you “like,” but it stays with me.

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