Hurt - Johnny Cash (Single)

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Hurt - Johnny Cash (Single)

Single Track from Johnny Cash - Genre: Country - Release Year: 2002

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Review of "Hurt - Johnny Cash (Single)"

published 27/05/2011 | misspurple7
Member since : 17/08/2010
Reviews : 155
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About me :
Spring is springing!
Pro Powerful, moving, timeless
Cons Tears guaranteed
very helpful
Quality of Lyrics/Music
How does it compare to the artist's other releases?

"The Man in Black's final goodbye."

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

“I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel”
'Hurt' was written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Nine Inch Nails original version was first released in 1994 on the band's Downward Spiral Album. 'Hurt' was never produced as a commercial single by Nine Inch Nails yet it's powerful and moving lyrics of destruction and loss caught the attention of many listeners and became a cult classic. One of those listeners was Johnny Cash who 8 years later recorded his version of the song and made 'Hurt' a classic all over again.

Cash's version featured on his 2002 album 'American IV – The Man Comes Around,' part of Cash's American series. It was also released on a single and was one of the last things Cash ever recorded.

Even writing this and having the song playing in my head I am deeply moved. The original Nine Inch Nails version was moving enough, especially the live versions, but sung by a legend such as Johnny Cash with the trademark growl in his voice now weakened and old it takes on a whole new meaning. Both Reznor and Cash had drug problems and lyrics such as 'The needle tells a hole, the old familiar sting' leaves us in no doubt that this is primarily about self destruction, through drug abuse. Cash himself described it as the best anti drug song he'd ever heard. However, it's also about regret in general. One quote from a fan that I particularly liked when I was reading about this song was 'Trent sung the song about a f**ked up future, Cash sings about a f**ked up past.'

Cash didn't take on this cover lightly and reportedly listened to the original over 100 times before starting on his version. Cash sings 'Hurt' with a reflective tone, made so much more moving by the frail voice. Cash's 'Hurt' is a dying man's reflections on the regretful things he's done throughout his life. Though this isn't an apology, if anything there's a slight bitterness and an overwhelming sadness. The producer of the song Rick Rubin said that even he could not bring himself to listen to the recording and simply described it as 'heartbreaking'

“You can have it all. My empire of dirt”
When you accompany this fantastic cover version with the video, it is, if possible, even more powerful. It also stops becoming a cover at all and really starts to belong to Cash. One quote I also read was that 'When Johnny Cash covers your song, it ain't yours no more!' Well I'm not sure every song writer out there would agree to that but Trent Reznor did. At first he didn't like the idea of Cash covering his song at all, he thought it was a gimmick. Though I defy anyone to argue that Cash hasn't done 'Hurt' complete justice, especially seeing as Reznor himself was forced to change his opinion after hearing the final piece and seeing the video. He said
“I pop the video in, and wow... Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps... Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn't mine any more... It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure.” - Praise indeed considering he'd previously commented that Hurt was the most personal thing he'd ever written.

Cash's video was filmed in his own hone in Hendersonville, Tennessee and is done very truthfully. In the video Cash is 71 and no make up is used to try and hide his age, there are no tricks or vibrant lighting, just Cash filmed singing, playing the piano and guitar and it all the more moving for it. He also wears his trademark black, a reminder of course that he will always be 'the man in black' however, with his pale ill complexion it only washes him out more an you can't help picking up on the fact it's a colour of mourning. He looks in a way as if he's attending his own funeral.

“...full of broken thoughts I can not repair”
In between these images filmed of Cash in 2002, there are clips from footage of him throughout his life. You often find with these sort of reflective 'montage' type videos that they show all the fun bits and successes of a person's career. While there's some of that in this video, with the birth of Cash and June Carter's son, some touching family shots and the man in black playing at top of his game, there are also a number of more sombre images. At the beginning it shows footage of his closed 'House of Cash' museum which housed his memorabilia but a lot was destroyed in a flood. Images of framed discs with broken glass add to the destructive imagery of the lyrics and the repeated image of the 'closed' sign on the museum comment on things coming to an end. The fact there is the good and the bad in these clips shows us that Cash wants us to remember the whole picture. Yes he was a star with big success but it wasn't all plain sailing.

There as also a number of images of Christ throughout, reference perhaps, to the lyric 'crown of thorns' which was the only lyric changed from the original 'crown of sh*t', apparently to remove the profanity but also to add a biblical reference.

“Everyone I know goes away in the end”
At the end of the video, Cash closes the lid on his piano and fondly strokes it before the video fades out – a very poignant image. June Carter also appears in the video, looking sad and also very frail. June died 3 months after the video was filmed, Johnny followed less than four months later.

It's a strange thing that you can love a song so much that really makes you so sad but I do. I love all of Cash's music but 'Hurt', somehow is in a league of it's own. More moving than any other song you are likely to come across. This isn't a song that has merit for having the best vocals, instrumentals or well, anything really. The technical aspects are fairly average, it's musically simplistic and the singing is more talking than anything. What makes 'Hurt' though are the honestly in which the lyrics are spoken, the shivers that Cash's expression of every word send down your back and a video that doesn't distract but only adds to the atmosphere of this incredible song. It's sung like a goodbye to everyone, and there's nothing more moving or powerful than a goodbye.

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Comments on this review

  • catsholiday published 16/06/2011
    What a great review - a fitting tribute to a great singer songwriter
  • Meggysmum published 09/06/2011
    I have always loved Johnny Cash but this song is so strong it brings tears to my eyes too x
  • kylecoare published 05/06/2011
    Wow, that was possibly the best review of a single ive read to date, so much detail passion and good writing. The review made the song play in my head, thinking how beautiful yet dark it is, great review, great song both versions!
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Product Information : Hurt - Johnny Cash (Single)

Manufacturer's product description

Single Track from Johnny Cash - Genre: Country - Release Year: 2002

Product Details

Artist(s): Johnny Cash

Title: Hurt

Release Date: 29/10/2002

Genre: Country

Rights: 2002 American Recording Company, LLC

Release Year: 2002


Listed on Ciao since: 13/08/2010