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The Covers: IX – “Hurt.”

April 27, 2020

This is the third of four posts featuring Jonny Cash.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Cash made several albums late in his career, with producer Rick Rubin.

Rubin had some unusual ideas for songs he thought Cash could cover. Last post was about the Soundgarden song “Rusty Cage,” and Cash’s cover of it.

This is the other cover that Cash is most famous for, at least for people of my generation,  “Hurt.” The song was originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails, an incredibly popular industrial hard rock band, fronted by Trent Reznor. (Supposedly, the nails used to crucify Christ were nine inches long. And no, NIN is not a Christian band).

Reznor wrote “Hurt,” and most if not all NIN songs. He also has created much of the musical arrangements. Reznor pretty much is Nine Inch Nails. “Hurt” was from NIN’s bestselling album, “The Downward Spiral,” released in 1994.

A word about industrial music before I go any further.. it is a genre that blends elements of dark hard rock, such as distorted guitar tones and intense vocals, as well as disturbing lyrics, with strange sound effects, including noises you might hear at a construction site, auto shop, or a factory. Lots of different mechanical noises, and sounds created on a computer or with a synthesizer, programmed drum beats.. Weird stuff.

Here is the original recording.. it starts almost imperceptibly, with just an eery sound effect for a few seconds..


And here is Johnny Cash’s version, from the album “American Recordings IV: When the Man Comes Around.” This album, from late 2002, was the last of Cash’s to be released while he was still alive. Cash died in 2003, at the age of 71.

Here is the cover song, not just the audio, but the video as well. One of the best videos ever made, I think. Especially if you know about Johnny’s past – struggles with drug addiction and so forth that not only caused damage to himself, but those closest to him as well.


If you would like to know the story of Cash teaming up with Rick Rubin, and how this song came to be covered by Cash, please take 10 minutes or so to watch this video from one of my favorite youtube channels, Rock and Roll True Stories. In the video are scenes from Cash’s last interview, as well as audio from an interview with Trent Reznor, the writer of this song.



For my fourth and last post on Johnny Cash, I am going to do something rather odd, that I don’t feel exactly good about. I think “Hurt” would have been a good place to end things with Cash, but..

Next post I’m going to present to you a song that isn’t entirely a cover song, since Johnny sings on both the original, one of his classics, and does a truly bizarre duet with an obscure Christian hard rock band that covered the song. I’m doing this to show a lighter, humorous side of Johnny Cash, and what a good sport he was to re-record one of his most famous songs in such a strange way.

After that post.. not sure.. too many ideas..

Stay with me..



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