February 20, 2019

Johnny Cash and Ray Charles’ Rare Recording of “Why Me Lord”

Johnny Cash and Ray Charles together is surely something you must add to your playlist. These two legends’ version of “Why Me Lord” is a true masterpiece.

johnny cash ray charles why me lord
Photo Credit: Ray Charles and Johnny Cash/ billboard.com

Johnny Cash and Ray Charles’ Recording Session

In 1981, Cash and Charles recorded Kris Kristofferson’s song “Why Me Lord” for the CBS Records. Unfortunately, their recording, together with other songs Charles recorded, was all hidden. The reason for such is unknown. However, if it wasn’t for Concord Records, we wouldn’t be given the chance to hear these one-of-a-kind songs of Ray Charles. Furthermore, we wouldn’t hear these two musical geniuses come together to perform an inspiring gospel song that has been covered by many artists.

The Release of the Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters Album

Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters was released on October 26, 2010. The album contained all ten previously unreleased recordings of Charles. The record also included his work with Cash.

A Letter

Before the recording of Cash and Charles was released, a letter of Johnny Cash to Ray Charles was discovered. He was thankful for their time together to record the song and was asking Charles’ permission to release the song with equal rights to it. He included the tape in his letter. However, by the time the letter was discovered, the tape went missing.

“I am so proud when I tell people that I have recorded a song with you,” begins Cash’s first letter to Charles dated Dec. 11, 1981. “I hope you like this tape. I realize that the orchestration isn’t big and I don’t sing very good, but I think the thing has a feeling and a quality that the fans would really enjoy. I would like to release it as a single on CBS, with your permission, on an equal royalty share basis. Would this be acceptable to you?”

The tape was eventually recovered and was finally published. It is truly such an honor to hear these two legends sing. The time it took for the song to be released may be quite long, but it’s well worth it.

Here’s a rare recording of Ray Charles and Johnny Cash singing “Why Me Lord”


Johnny Cash, Ray Charles

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