Song of the Day: Hurt - Johnny Cash

When Johnny Cash's cover of NIN's Hurt  was released, I listened to it so much I wore the CD out, (this was before iPod's, etc.)

This was my theme song back in early 2002. It was the bleakest year of my life, a year that asked hard questions. This song seemed to answer them.

That summer, I drove across the desert, listening to Cash and to Callas. Country and opera are my defaults in times of turmoil.

Then I saw the video, and the song took on deeper meaning. It became an archetype, mythical, like Persephone entering the Underworld.

Something about Cash's version spoke to me in a way that the original didn't. It could be the mythological and art historical allusions, the Caravaggio-like lighting and the excess of the tableau, the juxtaposition of his younger and current self.

I think it's Cash's voice. His voice is ravaged by age, regret, and hardly softened by hope. Listening to him sing this song, it's as if this were his theme song in which he is looking back at what he has done with his life and what it has made of him. This is his swan song, his final ode, in which he is struggling to come to terms with the reality that nothing stays, that life is impermanence.

Ultimately, the song is hopeful, in it's own way.

I still love these last four lines:

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

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