Ignored, Maligned, and Forgotten Music

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Ring of Fire - Various Artists


In reposting from five years ago, I keep finding playlists that I created in Grooveshark that have all disappeared into an abyss never to be seen again. They included as many as forty versions of or thematically related songs that I spent hours curating. Ring of Fire was one of the first, and it was blessedly short!

Happily, the song and its covers have not paled over time. My family still sings it at full volume when shuffle blesses us with a version. Here's hoping the rest of my recreations go as smoothly! Here's the original post and the new video playlist with the addition of the actual original from Anita Carter and a couple of other great burning covers (don't miss DragonForce and don't look for Coldplay--this is the Not-Pop Jukebox, you know).

I feel that I should 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 (he's at the beginning, now), 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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