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May 28

Johnny Cash’s Spoken “Ragged Old Flag” on Super Bowl Ad Still Strikes a Nerve

Johnny Cash has unapologetically made strong statements through the songs that he wrote during the Vietnam war. These songs were in opposition to the Vietnam war like “What is Truth” and the socially conscious Man in Black.”  Following the resignation of the then President Nixon, Cash wrote Ragged Old Flag“.

Cash has always been a strong supporter of Pres. Nixon until the Watergate scandal that ravaged Washington D.C. This made him doubt the president and he also questioned some of the decisions he made regarding the war. It was first uncertain if the president was directly involved but was soon confirmed despite his efforts of covering it all up. This was followed by the resignation of Richard Nixon.

As the events unfolded in the wake of President Nixon’s resignation, Johnny Cash was in Binghamton, New York. The nation was surrounded by turmoil with the political mishaps which plunge the country into deep political divisions, distrust, and resentments. These emotions and ideas surrounded Cash as he penned his song, Ragged Old Flag.

A Tribute Song

Ragged Old Flag could be described as both sentimental and patriotic. Its theme was unlike most of Johnny Cash songs. This time, Cash wrote a message of hope where he depicted the American flag as a national treasure. It has seen a lot and is still flying, and will continue to fly despite the many challenges that will come to the country it represents.

The song was the lead and title of Cash’s 1974 album. Along with it were “Lonesome to the Bone,”Pie in the Sky,” and “King of the Hill.” Most of the songs in the album were written by Cash himself except for “I’m a Worried Man.” He and his wife June Carter Cash wrote it together.

Ragged Old Flag Pre-Super Bowl LIV

“Ragged Old Flag” is one of those songs that does not fail to come to mind even after many years pass since its first release. The song remains to be culturally relevant and is regularly performed on Veterans Day to honor the servicemen of the armed forces.

Johnny Cash performed the song in 2002 at the American Music Awards where he changed some of the lyrics for it to include Operation Desert Storm and Afghanistan.

It was also featured in the pre-game coverage of the 2017 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. The video was introduced by U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and singer Harry Belafonte.

This presentation was done as a part of a feature celebrating American History. It included various real-life veterans and ended with a shot of the original “Ragged Old Flag,” the one at the Smithsonian Museum of American History which inspired the song, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Fox Sports Coordinating Producer Jennifer Pranksy, behind the scenes, looked at the tribute. She said that Fox Sports aims for the massive audience brought by huge sporting events like the Super Bowl to not just enjoy or talk about sports. They wanted to use the sports platform to further inculcate the things that matter to the nation. She added that the thing that matters the most is the country itself, America.

The ad, with its strong images combined with Johnny Cash‘s voice-over, was powerful in its impact. Some, however, critiqued that it does not fit Cash’s personal stance on politics.

Every word from Cash’s 1974 patriotic song “Ragged old flag gave the people of America more reasons to take pride in the nation’s flag. It’s the symbol of freedom to the 50 states that make America a nation. That should inspire us to keep striving to achieve unity amongst ourselves because equality and freedom belong to all of us.


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Johnny Cash, June Carter


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