Saturday, March 11, 2017

Certain Songs #815: Johnny Cash – “Ring of Fire” | Medialoper

Single, 1963

“Ring of Fire” is another one of those songs that has never left the popular culture.

An instant classic from the moment the mariachi horns trace the melody like chemtrails on a clear day, Johnny Cash’s biggest hit was actually written by June Carter (not yet) Cash and Merle Kilgore, (though the song’s wikipedia page has a pretty hilarious take on it by Johnny’s ex-wife where she claims that Johnny wrote it about “a certain private female body part,” presumably hers.)

Cover versions abound, of course: country people like Dwight Yoakam and Alan Jackson, rockers like Eric Burdon & Social Distortion, and the loopy, synthed-out Wall of Voodoo take.

But none of them are even a patch to Johnny’s sensual, swooning vocals. You can almost see him staring at June Carter the entire time as he sings each chorus:

I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire
The ring of fire

And while rings of fire are usually associated with hell, somehow — with the Carter family providing sweet love harmonies — it felt more like heaven than hell, as you always get the impression that no matter how much it burns, he’s exactly where he wants to be.

“Ring of Fire”

“Ring of Fire” performed live

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