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“Forty Shades of Green”: Johnny Cash’s Ode to Ireland

Johnny Cash + Forty Shades of Green

Country legend Johnny Cash released an ode to Ireland appreciating its beauty with “Forty Shades of Green” as part of his album Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash in 1963. The song was initially released as a B-side of Cash’s song ‘The Rebel-Johnny Yuma.” 

Johnny Cash is an American country singer-songwriter who is known for songs that dwell on themes like sorrow, moral tribulation, and redemption. He has released many hit songs, such as “Ring of Fire” and “I Walk the Line.” Accompanied by his calm, deep, baritone voice, he immediately became a country legend over the coming years. 

“Forty Shades of Green,” which was inspired by his visit to Ireland, is considered one of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits. He wrote the song while on a trip to Ireland in 1951 and completed it in 1961 as a B-side on his album “The Rebel – Johnny Yuma.”

Throughout the process of composing the song, Cash even asked Irish friends where he could see the true beauty of Ireland. After asking so many people, he was eventually told to head for the Vee Pass, which is a stunning place that divides the Knockmealdown and Galtee mountains in southern Tipperary—exquisite scenery that he can’t get out of his mind.

So, if you are interested in the meaning behind the song, let’s dive right into it. 

Meaning Behind the Song

Written by Johnny Cash, the song simply describes the overall beauty of Ireland, from the fishing boats at Dingle to the shores of Donaghadee. Above all, the protagonist of the song describes how he misses the girl he fell in love with in this majestic place. 

In an interview, Cash’s son mentioned that his father had spent quite a time holidaying in Ireland during the 1950s. As soon as the legendary singer landed in this foreign land, he immediately fell in love with its beauty. Although some may think “Forty Shades of Green” is somewhat sentimentally corny, Cash still decided to release it as it is his heartfelt view of Ireland. 

Despite the song not landing any charts, it was still considered one of Cash’s greatest hits considering several Irish-born citizens and known country artists like Dexys Midnight Runners and Daniel O’Donnell have also released their version of the song. 

So if you haven’t listened to Johnny Cash’s “Forty Shades of Green,” you can listen to it below. 

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