Ignored, Maligned, and Forgotten Music

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Ring of Fire - Various Artists

Legbamel Not-Pop

I feel that I could start with a disclaimer that I don’t watch American Idol. I do, however, like many of Johnny Cash’s songs and Ring of Fire in particular. It caught my eye that one of the contestants performed a very unusual version of that song last night and the wildly varying opinions led me to watch the video.

While I wasn’t crazy about the arrangement, the many posts and comments that I read expressing the opinion that Johnny Cash was spinning in his grave made me go looking for even more versions of Ring of Fire. I suspect that The Man in Black would have given the contestant a hearty pat on the back for taking such chances rather than being offended by the unusual interpretation. Of all of the country stars whose songs he could have chosen, I think Cash is the most likely to enjoy such a creative rendition.

Consider these versions of Ring of Fire, most of which were recorded while Mr. Cash was still alive (and, for the better-known acts, almost certainly with his permission). Try Grace Jones’ reggae-tinged version, Ray Charles’ soulful cover, or Blondie’s punk-country take on it. I’ve included Johnny Cash himself at the end, for a reminder of how it originally sounded. There’s a bit of nasty language in the Social Distortion cover, so if that will upset you then you may want to skip it.

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