One Song/Three Versions – Ring of Fire

I’m not the world’s biggest country fan. But if I had to pick one guy it would be Johnny Cash. He wrote good stuff, he was a collaborator with Dylan and he was open-minded enough later in life to record songs by bands like Nine Inch Nails. Hell, he even sings on a U2 song. Plus, he was a Sun guy as you can see in this picture with three other guys whose names escape me. He’s iconic.

Until reading up on it, I had thought the tune was written by the estimable Mr. Cash but no it was co-written by Cash’s eventual second wife June Carter Cash.* To some extent I think it was a way of expressing the emotions she started feeling for Johnny when he was touring with her family.

Wikipedia: “Some sources claim that Carter had seen the phrase “Love is like a burning ring of fire” underlined in an Elizabethan poetry book owned by her uncle A. P. Carter. She worked with Merle Kilgore on writing a song inspired by this phrase as she had seen her uncle do in the past. She had written: ]There is no way to be in that kind of hell, no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns.'”

Cash claimed that he dreamed he heard the mariachi horns in a dream. This song went to number one on the country charts in 1963 and the Man in Black was on the charts.

I don’t believe I’ve ever written about Social Distortion before, a band that started out way back in the punk era and is apparently still going. Their genres are listed as Punk rock, cowpunk, hardcore punk, and melodic hardcore. That is some heavy shit. I note with some interest that the current drummer in the band is David Hidalgo, Jr., son of the Los Lobos guitarist.

I actually think that country/rockabilly singer (and actor) Dwight Yoakam outdid Johnny on this. The drummer sets the pace on this one and at times it reminds me a little bit of Lindsay Buckingam’s “Holiday Road.” And you can’t beat that piano. Tinkle them ivories, man.

Fun story: “In 2004, Merle Kilgore proposed licensing the song for a hemorrhoid cream commercial. When performing the song live, Kilgore would often “mock dedicate” the song to the “makers of Preparation H.”  However, June’s heirs were not of a like mind, and they refused to allow the song to be licensed for the ad.” (Man, I would love to have seen that ad – ME).

*There is some speculation – but no proof – that Johnny wrote the tune and gave credit to his wife because she needed the money. Probably not true as the first version of the song was sung by June’s sister Anita.

Love is a burning thing
And it makes a fiery ring
Bound by wild desire
I fell into a ring of fire

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

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

The taste of love is sweet
When hearts like ours meet
I fell for you like a child
Oh, but the fire went wild

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

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 it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire
The ring of fire, the ring of fire…

22 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions – Ring of Fire

  1. You may recall that for the longest time I had dismissed country as “hillbilly music”. I guess what I meant by country was traditional country music. Arguably, Johnny Cash’s rendition falls within that category with a Mexican touch, yet I always loved that song and other Johnny Cash tunes. From the very beginning, I felt Cash was cool.

    I also like Dwight Yoakam’s rendition, though I think Cash still comes out on top because of the coolness factor.

    While I also appreciate that Social Distortion made the song their own, their version doesn’t really do it for me.

    Looks like I’m hopelessly Cash-biased here. I just love the man! “American IV” is an absoute gem.

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    1. I am equally guilty of having dismissed it as hillbilly music. And frankly, some it really is. I’ve heard tunes on the country station on satellite that make me absolutely fucking cringe. But like any other genre, there’s some people who stand out. I’d heard Johnny, but I don’t think I paid a lot of attention till he sang with Dylan because I was (and am) a Dylan freak.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Cash had been wanting to collaborate with Dylan for years. Then Dylan, at least temporarily, made a hard turn into country and the opportunity arose.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice covers of a classic. Reminds me of a line in a song by Big and Rich called “Rollin’ The Ballad of Big Rich”…

    Charlie Pride was the man in black
    Rock and roll used to be about Johnny Cash

    I’m not a huge country fan either but have come to love what I call more peripheral country artists — Keith Urban for one (a smoking guitar player), Lyle Lovett (songwriting genius), and others.

    Song noted above is cool tune if you’ve never heard it —

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  3. So many good versions. Very cool tune. I like all 3 of these. The Cash version is one of those songs that gets older but never tiring. Yokum had a band of great players. Pete Anderson is another one of those talents that has stayed in the background. Johnny was a likable guy that got a hit with this one.

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    1. And Johnny had many more. A tough life but he remained relevant to the end. Yoakam’s version is great. (He was an evil SOB in Sling Blade). If you haven’t heard that U2 tune with him, it’s classic Johnny minus country boys backing him. But the Irish know a thing or two about hard times.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes Ive heard the U2 cut. John got around and was loved and admired by a cross section of people. Ive heard and saw so may cool artists cover his material and they always seems to be right in the moment .

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        1. I hadn’t heard the U2 cut at all. Went to see them a few years ago. Not only did they play it (or a recording of it) but Cash’s picture was up on a screen. I thought, what the fuck have I gotten into?

          Speaking of shit-kicking, I have a completely insane (if you will) song for you to listen to. I heard about this through Dylan (more on that later). If you already know this one, my hat is off to you. Man, can these guys play (and sing).

          Liked by 1 person

        2. You know this is in my wheelhouse. You have to know by now that Im light on mainstream but big into this off the track shit. Nobody out plays “Bluegrass” folk. Here’s one for you Doc. If you dont know it I think you’ll dig it. You might even have pointed it to me. Listen to that fiddle. Either Skaggs or Bobby Hicks. Kinda funny because Skaggs is a heavy duty Christian.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQRVkoZPvCc

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        3. Oh, I know CB is a shitkicker one day, Monk aficionado the next. Yeah, that Super Freak tune wound up on my Bruce Hornsby post. Gotta send Osbornes to my bluegrass buddy Steve. That’s the real dueling banjos.

          Liked by 1 person

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