Johnny Cash Quotes

Johnny Cash was a legendary musician and one of the most successful musicians of all time.

His tunes and sound spanned a wide range of genres, including rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel. He sold over 90 million records all around the world.

The ‘Man in Black’ became known for his honest and melancholy manner, free jail concerts, and relaxing bass-baritone voice, thanks to his all-black playing outfit.

He began his shows with a simple “Hello, my name is Johnny Cash,” followed by Folsom Prison Blues, his hallmark tune.

However, incredible success came at a cost.

Cash battled alcohol and drug problems, watched his personal life fall apart, and spent nights in jails across the United States. Deep sorrow, moral struggles, and the yearning for atonement are common themes in his music, and they reflect a life filled with deep emotions and painful events.

Here are 86 of the finest Johnny Cash Quotes in honor of the Man in Black and his music’s enduring legacy.

Johnny Cash Quotes

About Children

J.R. Cash was born in Kingsland, Arkansas, on February 26, 1932, to Ray Cash and Carrie Cloveree (née Rivers).

He was the fourth of seven children, four of whom were boys and three of whom were girls. The family moved to Dyess, Arkansas, when Cash was three years old, a “New Deal” colony created to provide poor families with the opportunity to labor land that they may later own.

He began working in the cotton fields with his family at the age of five, singing alongside them while they worked. J.R. and his siblings used to listen to gospel music on the radio at home.

On May 12, 1944, Johnny Cash was involved in an accident that would forever alter his life and viewpoint.

His older brother Jack, with whom he was extremely close, was killed in a car accident at the high school where he worked. He was virtually sliced in half when he was pulled into an unprotected table saw while cutting oak into fence posts; he died a week later from his injuries.

Cash expressed his shame over the occurrence in his memoirs, stating that he, his mother, and even Jack himself had a deep sense of dread about that specific day.

Jack’s mother asked him to skip work and go fishing with his brother, but he refused, insisting on working to support his family.

Many of Johnny Cash’s later songs, particularly those about poor workers enduring similar challenges, we’re inspired by the family’s emotional and economic struggles during the Great Depression.

You’ve got to know your limitations. I don’t know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren’t too many limitations, if I did it my way.

That was the big thing when I was growing up, singing on the radio. The extent of my dream was to sing on the radio station in Memphis. Even when I got out of the Air Force in 1954, I came right back to Memphis and started knocking on doors at the radio station.

My father was a man of love. He always loved me to death. He worked hard in the fields, but my father never hit me. Never. I don’t ever remember a really cross, unkind word from my father.

I found out that there weren’t too many limitations, if I did it my way.

I’m very shy really. I spend a lot of time in my room alone reading or writing or watching television.

God gives us life and takes us away as He sees fit.

About Love

In July 1951, just before his three-year deployment to Germany, Johnny Cash met Vivian Liberto in San Antonio.

They married a month after he was released from the army and had four daughters together.

In 1966, Liberto filed for divorce, citing Cash’s serious drug and alcohol problems, incessant touring, and affairs with other women as justifications. She was subsequently left to raise the couple’s four daughters on her own.

While on tour, Cash met the love of his life, vocalist June Carter.

The two became absolutely infatuated with each other, despite the fact that they were both married to other people (and Johnny’s continued addiction issues). In 1968, 13 years after they first met, Cash proposed to June during a live performance in London, Ontario. They married on March 1, 1968, in Franklin, Kentucky, and went on to have one child together, John Carter Cash, who was born March 3, 1970.

Despite the fact that they were both married to other people (and Johnny’s ongoing addiction troubles), the two grew completely enamoured with each other. Cash proposed to June during a live performance in London, Ontario, 13 years after they originally met. They married in Franklin, Kentucky on March 1, 1968, and have one kid, John Carter Cash, who was born on March 3, 1970.

June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash worked, raised their child, made music, and toured together for another 35 years, till June died in May 2003.

Cash remarked that he thought that his music was his only reason for existing. On September 12, 2003, he died just four months after she did.

The 2005 biographical film Walk a Fine line, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny and June, is based on their great love storey.

She’s the greatest woman I have ever known. Nobody else, except my mother, comes close.

For you I know I’d even try to turn the tide.

There’s no way around grief and loss: you can dodge all you want, but sooner or later you just have to go into it, through it, and, hopefully, come out the other side. The world you find there will never be the same as the world you left.

I’m not really concerned about boundaries. I just follow my conscience and my heart. Follow your heart. That’s what I do. Compassion is something I have a lot of, because I’ve been through a lot of pain in my life. Anybody who has suffered a lot of pain has a lot of compassion.

Happiness is being at peace, being with loved ones, being comfortable…but most of all, it’s having those loved ones.

There’s unconditional love there. You hear that phrase a lot but it’s real with me and her [June Carter]. She loves me in spite of everything, in spite of myself. She has saved my life more than once. She’s always been there with her love, and it has certainly made me forget the pain for a long time, many times. When it gets dark and everybody’s gone home and the lights are turned off, it’s just me and her.

When my wife died, I booked myself into the studio just to work, to occupy myself.

Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, I got on my knees and told her that I was going to marry her some day. We were both married to someone else at the time. ‘Ring Of Fire’ — June and Merle Kilgore wrote that song for me – that’s the way our love affair was. We fell madly in love and we worked together all the time, toured together all the time, and when the tour was over we both had to go home to other people. It hurt.

Flesh and blood needs flesh and blood, and you’re the one I need.

Loneliness is emptiness, but happiness is you.

Life and love go on, let the music play.

All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…I choose love.

The spirit of June Carter overshadows me tonight with the love she had for me and the love I have for her. We connect somewhere between here and Heaven. She came down for a short visit, I guess, from Heaven to visit with me tonight to give me courage and inspiration like she always has. She’s never been one for me except courage and inspiration. I thank God for June Carter. I love her with all my heart.

Creative people have to be fed from the divine source. I have to get fed. I had to get filled up in order to pour out.

I don’t have Paul’s calling – I’m not out there being all things to all men to win them for Christ – but sometimes I can be a signpost. Sometimes I can sow a seed. And post-hole diggers and seed sowers are mighty important in the building of the Kingdom.

If you don’t get outside every day, even for a minute, you have not appreciated what God has done. It makes you grateful for our surroundings, and it starts your day differently.

No matter how much you’ve sinned, no matter how much you’ve stumbled, no matter how much you fall, no matter how far you’ve got from God, don’t give up. You can still be redeemed. As someone says, keep the faith.

Life is the question and life is the answer, and God is the reason and love is the way.

I am not a Christian artist, I am an artist who is a Christian.

I read novels but I also read the Bible. And study it, you know? And the more I learn, the more excited I get.

We’ll all be equal under the grass, and God’s got a heaven for country trash.

God’s the final judge for Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash too. That’s solely in the hands of God.

I have tried drugs and a little of everything else, and there is nothing in the world more soul-satisfying than having the kingdom of God building inside you and growing.

I love songs about horses, railroads, land, Judgment Day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. And Mother. And God.

There is a spiritual side to me that goes real deep, but I confess right up front that I’m the biggest sinner of them all.

How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man.

The Master of Life been good to me. He has given me strength to face past illnesses, and victory in the face of defeat. He has given me life and joy where other saw oblivion. He Has given new purpose to live for, new services to render and old wounds to heal. Life and love go on, let the music play.

My arms are too short to box with God.

The gospel of Christ must always be an open door with a welcome sign for all.

Jesus will not fail me, I shall not be moved.

When God forgave me, I figured I’d better do it too.

I wear black because I’m comfortable in it. But then in the summertime when it’s hot I’m comfortable in light blue.

I was wearing black clothes almost from the beginning. I feel comfortable in black. I felt like black looked good onstage, that it was attractive, so I started wearing it all the time.

In contrast with the rhinestone suits and cowboy boots worn by other major country acts, Cash stood out for performing dressed all in black, wearing a long, black, knee-length coat.

I wore black because I liked it. I still do, and wearing it still means something to me. It’s still my symbol of rebellion — against a stagnant status quo, against our hypocritical houses of God, against people whose minds are closed to others’ ideas.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, Livin’ 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 never read.

About Work

On July 7, 1950, Cash joined the United States Air Force. Lackland Air Force Base and Brooks Air Force Base, both in San Antonio, Texas, provided him with basic and technical training.

He was deployed to the United States Air Force Security Service’s 12th Radio Squadron Mobile in Germany, where he served as a Morse code operator intercepting Soviet Army messages.

Four years later, he was honorably discharged and returned to Texas. As a result of surgery to remove a cyst during his military service, he developed a unique scar on the right side of his jaw.

Cash and his young wife Vivian moved to Memphis, Tennessee later that year (1954). He sold appliances during the day and played with guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant at night while learning to be a radio broadcaster.

Cash summoned the guts to go to the Sun Records studio in the hopes of landing a recording deal. However, when he auditioned for Sam Phillips, singing largely gospel songs, he was told that he no longer recorded gospel music.

“Go home and sin, then come back with a song I can sell,” Sam Phillips is said to have told Johnny Cash.

Cash eventually won the producer over by delivering fresh tracks in his early rockabilly style. Cash’s debut recordings at Sun were “Hey Porter” and “Cry! Cry! Cry!” in 1955, which were released in late June and were country hit parade favorites.

They’re powerful, those songs. At times they’ve been my only way back, the only door out of the dark, bad places the black dog calls home.

The things that have always been important: to be a good man, to try to live my life the way God would have me, to turn it over to Him that His will might be worked in my life, to do my work without looking back, to give it all I’ve got, and to take pride in my work as an honest performer.

When I record somebody else’s song, I have to make it my own or it doesn’t feel right. I’ll say to myself, I wrote this and he doesn’t know it!

You have to be what you are. Whatever you are, you gotta be it.

Life is rough so you gotta be tough.

I start a lot more songs than I finish, because I realize when I get into them, they’re no good. I don’t throw them away, I just put them away, store them, get them out of sight.

That was the big thing when I was growing up, singing on the radio. The extent of my dream was to sing on the radio station in Memphis. Even when I got out of the Air Force in 1954, I came right back to Memphis and started knocking on doors at the radio station.

You’ve got a song you’re singing from your gut, you want that audience to feel it in their gut. And you’ve got to make them think that you’re one of them sitting out there with them too. They’ve got to be able to relate to what you’re doing.

I took the easy way, and to an extent I regret that. Still, though, the way we did it was honest. We played it and sang it the way we felt it, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.

People call me wild. Not really though, I’m not. I guess I’ve never been normal, not what you call Establishment. I’m country.

If you aren’t gonna say exactly how and what you feel, you might as well not say anything at all.

This business I’m in is different. It’s special. The people around me feel like brothers and sisters. We hardly know each other, but we’re that close; somehow there’s been an immediate bonding between total strangers. We share each other’s triumphs, and when one of us gets hurt, we all bleed – it’s corny, I know, but it’s true. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. It’s great. It turns up the heat in life.

I learn from my mistakes. It’s a very painful way to learn, but without pain, the old saying is, there’s no gain.

I love to go to the studio and stay there 10 or 12 hours a day. I love it. What is it? I don’t know. It’s life.

Quotes About Life

Cash released the songs that made him famous in 1957: “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk the Line,” the latter of which went to number one on the country charts and even moved over to the pop chart. Cash became the first Sun artist to release a long-playing album with “Home of the Blues” the following year.

Cash felt confined by his deal with the little company, despite the fact that he was Sun’s most consistently selling and productive artist at the time.

Phillips didn’t want Cash to record gospel music at all, and he was only giving him a 3% royalty instead of the normal 5%. In 1958, Cash followed in Elvis Presley’s footsteps and departed Sun, receiving a lucrative deal with Columbia Records.

He was finally able to produce a collection of gospel songs for his second album after his single “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” became one of his biggest hits.

Folsom Prison comes to mind when you hear the name Johnny Cash. He began performing performances in California jails such as Folsom and San Quentin in the late 1950s, which led to lucrative live records.

These concerts were essential to the documentary The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash, which premiered at SXSW, and they elevated his fame to new heights.

Cash began to drink heavily as his career took off, and he developed an addiction to amphetamines and barbiturates. Waylon Jennings, whose own addiction fueled Cash’s, shared an apartment with him in Nashville for a short time.

His drug addiction was developing as he relied on stimulants to keep awake on tours, and despite the fact that his “nervousness” and erratic behavior were ignored, his drug addiction was worsening. Cash was detained seven times for offenses as a result of the incident, which resulted in his shows being canceled.

The singer spent the night in jail in LaFayette, Georgia in 1967. He was let out after a lengthy conversation with Sheriff Ralph Jones, who warned him about the dangers of his actions and the potential he squandered.

If this were a movie I’d be the bad guy.

There’s a lot of things blamed on me that never happened. But then, there’s a lot of things that I did that I never got caught at.

Beneath the stains of time the feeling disappears, you are someone else I am still right here.

There’s no more simple life with simple choices for the young.

However, neither he nor anyone else could have become the star Elvis was. Ain’t nobody like Elvis. Never was.

Somehow there’s been an immediate bonding between total strangers. We share each other’s triumphs, and when one of us gets hurt, we all bleed – it’s corny, I know, but it’s true.

We’re all in this together if we’re in it at all.

You miss a lot of opportunities by making mistakes, but that’s part of it: knowing that you’re not shut out forever, and that there’s a goal you still can reach.

The ones that you’re calling wild are going to be the leaders in a little while.

I’m not bitter. Why should I be bitter? I’m thrilled to death with life.

Convicts are the best audience I ever played for.

I love weather. I’m a connoisseur of weather. Wherever my travels take me, the first thing I do is turn on the weather channel and see what’s going on, what’s coming. I like to know about regional weather patterns, how storms are created in different altitudes, what kinds of clouds are forming or dissipating or blowing through, where the winds are coming from, where they’ve been. That’s not a passion everybody shares, I know, but I don’t believe there are any people on earth who, properly sheltered, don’t feel the peace inside a summer rain and the cleansing it brings, the renewal of the earth in its aftermath.

If you aren’t gonna say exactly how and what you feel, you might as well not say anything at all.

Money can’t buy back your youth when you’re old, a friend when you’re lonely, or peace to your soul.

It’s good to know who hates you and it is good to be hated by the right people.

The battle against the dark one, and the clinging to the right one, is what my life is about.

It makes me so mad that some people underestimate the wisdom and energy of young people. All because they don’t look the way older folks think they should look. I’m working on a song about it. Maybe some of those closed minded people will realize long hair and tattoos don’t mean they should be ignored. Close minded people are part of what’s wrong with this world.

A rose looks grey at midnight, but the flame is just asleep. And steel is strong because it knows the hammer and white heat.

You can ask the people around me. I don’t give up. I don’t give up… and it’s not out of frustration and desperation that I say I don’t give up. I don’t give up because I don’t give up. I don’t believe in it.

When I think about country music, I think about America

I love the freedoms we got in this country, I appreciate your freedom to burn your flag if you want to, but I really appreciate my right to bear arms so I can shoot you if you try to burn mine.

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