March 2, 2018

JCSL III: The Birth of “The Man in Black”

You might think it had something to do with his “rags to riches” story or could be related to his conversion story. Both were heavily influential, but neither was the origin of Cash embodying the image of  “The Man in Black.”

We’ll get to the backstory later. But first, have a listen to the following song.

“Give My Love to Rose”

It’s sort of a love song, yes. And no, that wasn’t a trick.

Here’s a part of its lyrics.

He said they let me out of prison down in Frisco
For ten long years, I’ve paid for what I’ve done
I was trying to get back to Louisiana
To see my Rose and get to know my son

Give my love to Rose please won’t you mister
Take her all my money, tell her to buy some pretty clothes
Tell my boy his daddy’s so proud of him
And don’t forget to give my love to Rose

“Give My Love to Rose” was recorded in 1957. It was in that year that the legendary “Man in Black” came to life. Read through.

In the car, Cash was in his deep thoughts. He had written a variety of songs, but he wanted to write something from his personal experience. His recent works with Sun Records had done well. They were intended for the teenage crowd who were into heartbreaks and puppy love.

He then recalled an encounter with a stranger during one of his trips to California. The man approached Cash in the backstage and asked him to say hello to his wife for him. Because he had just been released from prison, he’s broke and couldn’t go home to Shreveport yet.

That memory reminded Cash of his own miseries. This time though, he opted to tell other people’s stories.

It was then that he finally discovered the kind of artist he would become. He won’t be primarily singing for himself. So, despite the hype of producing pop and jukebox worthy materials, Cash blazed his own trail. He knew who to sing for. Along came more songs about the outcasts and the downtrodden.

Cash and Christ-likeness

Perhaps we’ve heard the story when Cash responded to an interview question about why he wore black. He said that black was the color for the poor and the destitute. He wears black to identify with them. Wasn’t that similar to the heart of Christ?

Cash, definitely, was far from perfect. Still, he was closer to striving to be Christ-like than most believers who were guilty of only paying lip-service to their faith.


gospel, Johnny Cash, Man in Black

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