Sam Hall and Jesus

Johnny Cash is and always will be my number one favorite male singer. The next nine spots on my top ten list move around depending on my mood, but the Man in Black will forever be the master in my book.

My dad was a huge fan also. Any song by Cash brings back memories of listening to his music with my dad. I remember we had these old vinyl albums that were a mix of Cash, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, and a few other original country singers. The center labels were silver and Dad drew pictures on each one so I would know what songs were on it even before I learned to read. My favorite was the picture of the Old Speckled Bird.

When his classic baritone ceased to grace this earth any longer in 2003, I took it almost as hard as when my own father died. It was like it was 1993 and Dad had died all over again.

Even though my son Benton never met his grandfather, I taught him to love Johnny Cash too. I played it in the car often when I was driving him to daycare, school, or swim lessons, and when we went shopping or to a friend’s house.

One time, when Benton was seven or eight, we were driving home from an errand listening to my new iPod. Johnny had been making his comeback with the American Recordings albums produced by Rick Rubin and John Carter Cash, and I had every one that had been released so far, including American IV: The Man Comes Around. That’s what was playing on this particular day.

From out of nowhere Benton asks, “I thought Johnny Cash sang Jesus songs? This is not a Jesus song.”

Paying closer attention to the lyrics I had to agree. “Sam Hall” is about a criminal standing on the gallows about to be hanged for his crimes. But instead of expressing remorse, Sam repeatedly says to those in the crowd, “Damn your eyes.” Yeah, not a Jesus song, and Benton did not like it. So I skipped to the next song, a remake of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” and all was well.

To this day, whenever I hear “Sam Hall” I can hear Benton in the back seat saying, “I thought Johnny Cash sang Jesus songs?” Now that he’s older, he has a greater appreciation for the range of subjects Cash has dealt with in his long, roller-coaster career. Even the ones about criminals.


I joined a new Facebook group called Everything Memoir with Suzy Flory. Each week Suzy posts a Memoir Starter prompt. I answered the first one as a comment to the post, but this week I had the idea to use her prompts to inspire blog posts.

This week’s prompt was: “What song or band or type of music brings up a memory or strong emotion for you? For this memoir prompt, think of the first time you heard that song, OR a moment when that song played and took you back to a different time in your life—and try to capture that moment in words. Music has the power to transport, to elevate, to transcend, to evoke another time, place, or person. Do that for your readers.”

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


2 Responses

  1. I went off to the University of Illinois with my Johnny Cash albums and a few others. It wasn’t long before my new dorm friends had a field day making fun of Cash and me. Even though I was a small town, farm grown boy, I played Johnny’s songs often and loud enough for all to hear. It was a hoot. So yes, I loved the “Man in Black.”

    • I have more Cash albums on my iPod than any other artist, and anyone who doesn’t at least respect him (even if they don’t care for that kind of music) can’t be a friend of mine.

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