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Johnny Cash — Folsom Prison Blues
Album: The Essential Johnny Cash
Avg rating:
8.4

Your rating:
Total ratings: 929









Released: 1964
Length: 2:40
Plays (last 30 days): 0
I hear the train a comin'
It's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine,
Since, I don't know when,
I'm stuck in Folsom Prison,
And time keeps draggin' on,
But that train keeps a-rollin',
On down to San Antone.

When I was just a baby,
My Mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy,
Don't ever play with guns,"
But I shot a man in Reno,
Just to watch him die,
When I hear that whistle blowin',
I hang my head and cry.

I bet there's rich folks eatin',
In a fancy dining car,
They're probably drinkin' coffee,
And smokin' big cigars,
But I know I had it comin',
I know I can't be free,
But those people keep a-movin',
And that's what tortures me.

Well, if they freed me from this prison,
If that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move out over a little,
Farther down the line,
Far from Folsom Prison,
That's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle,
Blow my blues away.
Comments (62)add comment
Keep playing this!
great lyric / view of US today
Let's hear it for the birth of Punk!
I grew up with his songs as my Dad was a great fan. Apart from him, I cant stand country music.
..... a very. BIG 10
his complete Sun recordings are a must
no matter what kind of music you are into 
 fredriley wrote:
I'm no fan of Cash, and his mawkish melancholy used to make me retch until I heard some of his better numbers on RP. Folsom Prison Blues is extremely overplayed on FM, but looking at it from a fresh viewpoint I've got to give kudos to the guy for reaching out to jailbirds, whom so many 'upstanding citizens' consider to be subhuman and not worthy of even bread and water, let alone entertainment and rehabilitation. I don't know about the atmosphere in the US right now, but across the Pond prisons are filled past overflowing by a punitive government passing ever more laws to bang folk up for more 'offences' and for a feck of a sight longer, in response to hang 'em and flog 'em moralists who are in the ascendancy. Once you've committed a prisonable offence, even if it's just minor theft, you become a non-human and lose all your rights including, for many moralists, your right to life. Cash, for all his many faults, certainly saw lags as human beings.

Over here, the leftie singer/songwriter and activist, Billy Bragg, has been involved for many years in an initiative called Jail Guitar Doors, to bring music to inmates and help them rehabilitate and to survive their time inside. Whilst Cash's gig was a one-off (though kudos even for that), Billy's been active on this project for many years now and regularly goes to prisons to work with inmates.

The moral is simple: prisoners are human too, deserving of the respect and dignity due to a human whilst serving their punishment.
 
I greatly enjoy your comments fredriley even when our musical tastes differ, which is frequently. And I admire the intent of this one, though I must point out something of which many people are probably unaware: Johnny Cash did not do only a couple of "one-off" prison concerts (Folsom, San Quentin). On the contrary, he was a life-long advocate for prison reform, and Native American rights, and performed, unpaid, in countless prisons across the US and even some world-wide (Österåker Prisonand made an album there too, so, not strictly unpaid on that one).

He took up the fight for Prison Reform long before others and despite heavy resistance from both management and fans. He was bold enough to confront the pre-Watergate U.S. president Richard M. Nixon with his beliefs. He is a true champion in my book. Folks are of course free to decide for themselves and to like or dislike his music as suits them.

Keep on fredriley, I just want to set the record straight, and it's clear that Johnny would agree with you:"The moral is simple: prisoners are human too, deserving of the respect and dignity due to a human whilst serving their punishment."

BBC Magazine: Johnny Cash and his prison reform campaign

Salon Magazine: The bitter tears of Johnny Cash

NY Times:  Johnny Cash Risked His Career to Take a Stand
Immortal!  The Gasoline Lollipops (a local band that sounds like Cash on acid with bits of Eels, Tom Waits, and Nick Cave along with Keith Moon-style drums) did a fabulous, stomping version of this on Friday night up at the legendary Gold Hill Inn, and they rocked it!
 thewiseking wrote:
not his best version. tempo is rushed.

 

The one where he's actually playing in Folsom Prison to the prisoners is probably unbeatable. 
not his best version. tempo is rushed.
I'm no fan of Cash, and his mawkish melancholy used to make me retch until I heard some of his better numbers on RP. Folsom Prison Blues is extremely overplayed on FM, but looking at it from a fresh viewpoint I've got to give kudos to the guy for reaching out to jailbirds, whom so many 'upstanding citizens' consider to be subhuman and not worthy of even bread and water, let alone entertainment and rehabilitation. I don't know about the atmosphere in the US right now, but across the Pond prisons are filled past overflowing by a punitive government passing ever more laws to bang folk up for more 'offences' and for a feck of a sight longer, in response to hang 'em and flog 'em moralists who are in the ascendancy. Once you've committed a prisonable offence, even if it's just minor theft, you become a non-human and lose all your rights including, for many moralists, your right to life. Cash, for all his many faults, certainly saw lags as human beings.

Over here, the leftie singer/songwriter and activist, Billy Bragg, has been involved for many years in an initiative called Jail Guitar Doors, to bring music to inmates and help them rehabilitate and to survive their time inside. Whilst Cash's gig was a one-off (though kudos even for that), Billy's been active on this project for many years now and regularly goes to prisons to work with inmates.

The moral is simple: prisoners are human too, deserving of the respect and dignity due to a human whilst serving their punishment.
8 but the live version is an easy 10.
 Geecheeboy wrote:
So Keef, how did it go?

 
Got the job!
 olivertwist wrote:


Cool - so did this song turn out to be good luck for your bid?

 
Yes!  The Johhny Cash trail and bridge are currently under construction in Folsom CA. 
{#Bananajam}
 Keef wrote:
Thanks for playing!  Very timely.  I am currently working on a bid for a new Bike Trail and Bike Bridge for the City of Folsom.  It's going to be called the Johnny Cash Trail.  The bridge will have towers on each end that will look like the Folsom Prison Gates.  Apparently Johnny's family has approved the concept.  I believe that me hearing this song at RP while working late this evening on the bid is a good sign for a successful bid tomorrow.  Check it out https://www.villagelife.com/news/folsom-adding-johnny-cash-trail-to-system/

 

Cool - so did this song turn out to be good luck for your bid?
So Keef, how did it go?
I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowin' I hang my head and cry

A couple of the greatest lines ever written. Still get shivers and want to jump up and dance when I hear this. Never gets old
Super.
Thanks for playing!  Very timely.  I am currently working on a bid for a new Bike Trail and Bike Bridge for the City of Folsom.  It's going to be called the Johnny Cash Trail.  The bridge will have towers on each end that will look like the Folsom Prison Gates.  Apparently Johnny's family has approved the concept.  I believe that me hearing this song at RP while working late this evening on the bid is a good sign for a successful bid tomorrow.  Check it out https://www.villagelife.com/news/folsom-adding-johnny-cash-trail-to-system/
Best guitar solo EVER. !
He was talking about the first man he shot; the second was in Paradise.

 
mrgus wrote:
OK, if he shot a man in Reno, Nevada, why is he in a California prison?

 



My 7th grade daughter told me her English teacher loves Johnny Cash and played this song for them in class. We live in Israel, so she was one of the few native English speakers who understood the words. But still.

Everybody in my church loves this song...

All my Cell mates are dancing with they're shiv's held high. {#Lol}
 calypsus_1 wrote: 
This may be my favorite version. He really lets it rip.
Love the wide range of music on this site!
Gotta love Johnny's "I'll kick your ass, son!" stare on the album cover. Johnny was, and still is, The Man.
Saw Roger Daltry recently. After doing the entire Tommy album he did some WHo hits and a great Cash medley.
{#Bananajam}
Oh man I love Johnny.
Warden: Try not to sing anything that reminds them they are in prison.

Cash: Did you think they forgot?

{#Shhh}

 RickyBobby wrote:
Didn't even know I liked Johnny Cash. Thanks RP!

Is it normal for me to want to have a couple of beers when I hear this song?
 
As long as you are using the beers to wash down some uppers I think you will be fine.
Didn't even know I liked Johnny Cash. Thanks RP!

Is it normal for me to want to have a couple of beers when I hear this song?
 Daveinbawlmer wrote:

Badassed to the Core.
 
Plagiarized to the core.

OK, if he shot a man in Reno, Nevada, why is he in a California prison?
Boy howdy, this is good. 9


This song is soooo good for the ears...


Great song. Please play the original Sun recording and not this later version.

Johnny Cash - ICONIC by ~ICONCollectibles
©2009-2010 ~ICONCollectibles

Johnny Cash Deep in Reflection, Oct. 1959

Photographed by Don Hunstein

After three years as Sun Records' most consistently top-selling performer, the outlaw country artist Johnny Cash came to Columbia Records in 1958 to record "The Fabulous Johnny Cash," the first in a long series of chart-topping iconic releases for the label. In this candid in-the-studio portrait of a man in black pompadour, Johnny Cash is deep in reflection, pondering the fine points of a playback, ruminating the next move in a career that would take him deep into the American cultural psyche.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Johnny Cash TNT Special, Live

I hear the train a comin'; it's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when.
I'm stuck at Folsom Prison and time keeps draggin' on.
But that train keeps rollin' on down to San Antone.

When I was just a baby, my mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy; don't ever play with guns."
But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
When I hear that whistle blowin' I hang my head and cry.

I bet there's rich folk eatin' in a fancy dining car.
They're prob'ly drinkin' coffee and smokin' big cigars,
But I know I had it comin', I know I can't be free,
But those people keep a movin', and that's what tortures me.

Well, if they freed me from this prison, if that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move on over a little farther down the line,
Far from Folsom Prison, that's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away

"The speech comes from the liner notes of the Folsom Prison Album. "

"I think what Tim Robbins and Johnny are really saying here is that prisons are really only made for the poorest of American's who never had a chance after coming out of the chute(vagina. They aren't made for people of privelege who commit heinous crimes like outing a covered CIA operative, or fabricating evidence to get America involved in an illegal war. "   OaktownUSA

 




A little known fact about one of Cash's biggest hits is that he plagiarized most of it from a song that was released two years earlier called CRESCENT CITY BLUES by Gordon Jenkins. He "borrowed" the melody and most of the lyrics and actually paid a considerable settlement to Jenkins.

Crescent City Blues
Gordon Jenkins, 1954


I hear the train a-comin, it's rolling 'round the bend
And I ain't been kissed, lord since I don't know when

The boys in Crescent City don't seem to know I'm here
That lonesome whistle seems to tell me, Sue, disappear
Folsom Prison Blues
Johnny Cash, 1956


I hear the train a comin´, it´s rolling round the bend
And I ain´t seen the sunshine since I don´t know when,

I´m stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin´ on
But that train keeps a rollin´ on down to San Antone

When I was just a baby my mama told me, Sue,
When you're grown up I want that you should go and see and do
But I'm stuck in Crescent City just watching life mosey by

When I hear that whistle blowin', I hang my head and cry
When I was just a baby my mama told me, son,
Always be a good boy, don´t ever play with guns.

But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die

When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry

I see the rich folks eatin' in that fancy dining car
They're probably having pheasant breast and eastern caviar
Now I ain't crying envy and I ain't crying me
It's just that they get to see things that I've never seen
I bet there´s rich folks eating in a fancy dining car
They´re probably drinkin´ coffee and smoking big cigars
Well I know I had it coming, I know I can´t be free
But those people keep a movin´ and that´s what tortures me

If I owned that lonesome whistle, if that railroad train was mine
I bet I'd find a man a little farther down the line
Far from Crescent City is where I'd like to stay

And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away
Well if they´d free me from this prison, if that railroad train was mine
I bet I´d move it on a little further down the line
Far from Folsom prison, that's where I want to stay

And I´d let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away


You can hear a comparison here
 https://tinyurl.com/25k4zln

Badassed to the Core.
https://blag.xkcd.com/2007/01/05/johnny-cash-will-not-leave-me-alone/ and...
toe tapping, head shaking genius work.
Yep. Top Cash IMO.
Antigone wrote:
Springsteen -- Clash -- Johnny -- I'm in Paradise!! :clap:
Yeah - this run is probably enough to power me through to the end of the day! Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues The Clash - I Fought The Law Bruce Springsteen - Tenth Avenue Freeze Out David Bowie - Sound and Vision
These versions seem so refreshing to me, may have to go buy this one.
I think Johnny was so much more than country music. He had the aura of 'alternative' for as long as I can remember.
Springsteen -- Clash -- Johnny -- I'm in Paradise!! :clap:
He did so many versions of this, I'm not sure anyone's heard the same one twice! I really like the 'Live at San Quentin' version too. God Bless J.R. Cash. c.
dionysius wrote:
"I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die"
I heard an interview with Johnny. He was trying to think of the most awful, inhuman thing someone could do when he wrote that line.
Great, great segue from The Clash's I Fought the Law.
Anyone noticed that the versions on this album are slightly different than the "originals"? I've got both this song and Ring of Fire on the original 7" singes as well as the Love/God/Murder triple CD (which are the same as the 7"), and the versions from this Essential album are both different from them. The differences aren't huge, but just enough for the songs to seem a bit off to me...
One of his best songs. Definitely.
dionysius wrote:
"I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die" Now, that's gangsta! Now if only tha gangsta thugs who still celebrate this sort of nihilism also showed Johnny's depth of feeling and remorse in this song, then they might have something going for them besides some chill beats. Johnny got Luther Perkins and that chug-a-lug guitar; what else do they got? (I will exempt the Geto Boys's "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" from this discussion: there's one group of gangsta rappers who see and rap about the dark side of thuggish nihilism--and this from the same group who did "Mind of a Lunatic" too!)
you said it, brother
I just never grow tired of this killer tune. thank you.
SOOOUUUIIIEEEE
I first heard the man in black back in '69 - my brother was hooked on him. Loved him ever since.
Nice! How 'bout the version from the Folsom Prison disc?
dionysius wrote:
"I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die" Now, that's gangsta! Now if only tha gangsta thugs who still celebrate this sort of nihilism also showed Johnny's depth of feeling and remorse in this song, then they might have something going for them besides some chill beats. Johnny got Luther Perkins and that chug-a-lug guitar; what else do they got? (I will exempt the Geto Boys's "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" from this discussion: there's one group of gangsta rappers who see and rap about the dark side of thuggish nihilism--and this from the same group who did "Mind of a Lunatic" too!)
Word to your mother's uncle.
"I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die" Now, that's gangsta! Now if only tha gangsta thugs who still celebrate this sort of nihilism also showed Johnny's depth of feeling and remorse in this song, then they might have something going for them besides some chill beats. Johnny got Luther Perkins and that chug-a-lug guitar; what else do they got? (I will exempt the Geto Boys's "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" from this discussion: there's one group of gangsta rappers who see and rap about the dark side of thuggish nihilism--and this from the same group who did "Mind of a Lunatic" too!)