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Johnny Cash’s “Forty Shades of Green” Captures Ireland’s Beauty


Johnny Cash has written and recorded numerous songs throughout his career spanning almost five decades. His most notable hits were “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Ring of Fire,” and “Walk the Line” among others. Aside from having an array of chart-topping songs under his belt, Cash also recorded tunes that people from a certain place continue to treasure. A great example of this was his self-penned song “FortyShades of Green.” The song was inspired by his visit to Ireland in the late1 950s. Many Irish people or those who have special affection toward Ireland also love the song.

Watch Johnny Cash performing the song live below.

The Song’s Inspiration  

Cash began writing “Forty Shades of Green” while on a trip to Ireland in 1959. The Man in Black mentions a number of places in Ireland in the song. Among them were the country’s capital Dublin, Dingle, Shannon, and Skibbereen. Local folklore hinted though that the Kockmealdown Mountains in Co. Tipperary was Cash’s primary inspiration for the song.

The story goes that Cash had some contacts from Ireland and asked them the best place to go where he could view the true beauty of their place. They advised him to go to the Vee Pass. Considered as one of the great cycle roads in Ireland, this V-shaped kink in the road divides the Knockmealdown and Galtee mountains in southern Tipperary. The stunning view from this spot remain in Cash’s mind and wrote it down to a song. 

It took some time before the song’s composition was completed. Finishing it in 1961, Cash recorded and first released the single as a B-side to “The Rebel – Johnny Yuma.” The song re-appeared on two future albums of the singer – Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash (1963) and Johnny Cash: The Great Lost Performance – Live at the Paramount Theatre, Asbruy Park, New Jersey (2007). Different artists also recorded the song including Ruby Murray, Daniel O’Donnell, and Foster and Allen.

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