Johnny Cash performs “Man in Black” Live in Denmark 1971.

The lyrics are an after-the-fact explanation of this with the entire song as a protest statement against the treatment of poor people by wealthy politicians, mass incarceration, and the war in Vietnam.

YouTube Johnny Cash Channel
YouTube Johnny Cash Channel

“Man in Black”:

Johnny Cash - Man in Black(Cover LP 1971)
Johnny Cash – Man in Black(Cover LP 1971)

“Man in Black” (or “The Man in Black”) is a protest song written and recorded by singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, originally released on his 1971 album of the same name. Cash himself was known as “The Man in Black” for his distinctive style of on-stage costuming. The lyrics are an after-the-fact explanation of this with the entire song as a protest statement against the treatment of poor people by wealthy politicians, mass incarceration, and the war in Vietnam. In the intro to his first performance of the song, Johnny Cash revealed he had talked to some of the audience members from Vanderbilt University that weekend, and was inspired to write “Man in Black,” revising it a few times before the concert on Wednesday. At the end of the song he received a standing ovation.



Johnny Horsepower
Johnny Horsepower

 

Some Versions

Johnny Cash February 1971
Marc Almond 1988
Weird Feeling Number Three 1998
J.C.P. feat. Gordon Griffin March 10, 2006
Debauchery August 2, 2013
The Cashbags August 1, 2015
Johnny Horsepower January 2017




Johnny Cash – Man in Black Lyrics

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black
Why you never see bright colors on my back
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down
Living in the hopeless, hungry side of town
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime
But is there because he’s a victim of the times

I wear the black for those who’ve never read
Or listened to the words that Jesus said
About the road to happiness through love and charity
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me

Well, we’re doing mighty fine, I do suppose
In our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back
Up front there ought to be a man in black

I wear it for the sick and lonely old
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold
I wear the black in mourning for the lives that could have been

Each week we lose a hundred fine young men
And, I wear it for the thousands who have died
Believing that the Lord was on their side
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died
Believing that we all were on their side

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know
And things need changing everywhere you go
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day
And tell the world that everything’s okay
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
Until things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black

Johnny Cash - Man in Black(Single Columbia 1971)
Johnny Cash – Man in Black(Single Columbia 1971)