“Belshazzar” by Johnny Cash
“Belshazzar” is Cash’s first gospel song which he sang in Memphis, Tennessee. He recorded it in 1957 with Sun Records. That was the only religious song Sam Phillips allowed Cash to include in his album though. Over time, Cash left Sun and moved to Columbia Records. He then had the freedom to do more gospel recordings.
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“Belshazzar” is the name of a Babylon King sometime in early 500 B.C.E. He was mentioned in one of the Bible narratives under the book of Daniel. Cash sang of Belshazzar’s lavish feast. To savor his victory and as a way of mocking the Jews, he ordered the golden vessels looted from their temple be brought out for use. He and his guests were merry-making when an apparition of a hand appeared and wrote letters on the wall. The handwriting revealed the impending downfall of the wicked ruler. That same night, the Mede army possessed his kingdom. He died in the attack.
Unlike his predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar, who humbled himself before the God of Israel, Belshazzar did the opposite. Hence, Yahweh dethroned him and his lineage cut.
Cash and his Gospel records.
Upon joining Columbia records, Cash quickly exercised his liberty in the choice of songs to record. In 1959, he cut a full album of gospel songs known as “Hymns by Johnny Cash.” In the later years of his career, he did more gospel albums. Two of the widely-known were The Gospel Road (1973) and My Mother’s Hymn Book (2004). The Gospel Road was also the soundtrack for the musical documentary, “The Gospel Road.” Cash gives first a brief narration of Jesus’ life story, then performs each song in his signature style.
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