Man In Black

Man In Black

Johnny Cash had a lot on his mind when he released Man in Black in 1971. Though many of his recordings touched on issues of social justice and personal redemption, this album is a particularly eloquent statement about the human condition. Cash fuses his populist politics and religious faith seamlessly, reaching out to both the political left and right in the process. His self-written tunes are consistently strong here, whether he’s confronting sin and suffering in tandem with Billy Graham (“The Preacher Said, ‘Jesus Said’”), painting a nuanced portrait of an outlaw (“Ned Kelly”), or speaking on behalf of an abandoned prisoner (“Dear Mrs.”). Especially powerful are “Singin’ in Viet Nam Talkin’ Blues” (inspired by a trip to the front lines) and the title number (an explanation of Cash’s somber taste in clothes). Cover tunes like “Orphan of the Road” and “If Not for Love” further drive home the theme of compassion for the underdog. The album’s serious mood lightens on “Look for Me,” a sparkling gospel tune sung with June Carter Cash. By turns angry, reflective, and exalted, Man in Black ranks among Cash’s most thoughtful and heartfelt works.


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