“Hurt” by Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash’s popular track “Hurt” is actually the cover of a song by the Nine Inch Nails that was originally released in 1995. The lyrics are exactly the same as the original with the exception of Cash modifying one line at the beginning of the second verse. 

However, this does not negate that fact that, as Trent Reznor – lead vocalist of the Nine Inch Nails and the track’s writer – has stated, that Cash’s rendition added a new whole dimension to the song.

Since the song first became a hit back in the 1990’s, there have been two prevailing theories as to its meaning. One is centered on self-harm/suicide and the other drug addiction. As to exactly which of these perspectives Cash is approaching the cover from is also disputable. 

For throughout his life Johnny had a decades-long drug addiction in addition to reportedly once attempting suicide. As such the lyrics of this song likely appealed to him on a personal level, as alluded to by the track’s producer, Rick Rubin.

Johnny Cash’s cover is particularly noted for its accompanying music video. It features images of an aged, decrepit Johnny Cash – devoid of makeup or other gimmicks to make him appear younger and healthier – mixed with some from his youth. 

This piece has been dubbed “the saddest music video of all time” and accordingly has brought many a viewer to tears, including Trent Reznor and Rick Rubin. Moreover it should be noted that both Johnny Cash and his wife, who is also featured in the video, died within months after its release due to poor health. Thus it can be further theorized that “Hurt”, video and all, was just as much if not more of a reflection of what was going on in Cash’s life as it was Reznor’s when he penned it.

Lyrics to Johnny Cash's "Hurt"

Facts about Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”

In March of 2003, Johnny Cash officially released this classic cover. It was a single from the late singer’s “American IV: The Man Comes Around” album.

Despite going on to become one of his most memorable songs, Cash didn’t write “Hurt”. The song was entirely written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame.

Famed American record producer and music executive Rick Rubin solely handled the production of “Hurt”.

Cash’s version of this song can be safely categorized into the following genres of music:

  • Alternative rock
  • Acoustic rock
  • Country
  • Southern gothic

Did “Hurt” win a Grammy?

Yes, it did! In 2004 the song won a Grammy in the “Best Short Form Music Video” grouping. It was nominated alongside the following songs:

More Accolades 

By March of 2017, the song had been commercially downloaded more than 2 million times in America alone.  

Cash’s “Hurt” also went on to chart favorably around the world. For example, it hit number 33 and and 39 in the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively.

Johnny Cash's "Hurt"

Famous Movie and TV Appearances  

Since Johnny Cash released his version of this song in 2002, it has been featured in a number of films and TV series including the likes of the below:

  • 2011 action thriller film, “Colombiana”
  • The crime drama series, “Criminal Minds”
  • Alfred Gough and Miles Millar’s “Smallville”
  • The 2004 Irish comedy film, “Inside I’m Dancing”
  • “Person of Interest”, an American science fiction drama

The song featured very prominently on the TV episode titled “The Devil’s Share”. The said episode is from season 3 of of the hit series “Person of Interest”.

Johnny Cash’s “American IV: The Man Comes Around”

American IV: The Man Comes Around is the fourth album of Johnny Cash’s American albums series. It is also the last studio album the legendary musician recorded and released before his sad death in 2003. American Recordings and Universal Records released the album internationally on November 5, 2002.

During the recording sessions of the album, Cash was suffering from many medical health problems. He had lost the majority of his sight, and this led to multiple interruptions of the recording sessions. Johnny was also admitted to the hospital on several occasions during recording sessions. However, these health problems did not take away the beauty and quality of the album. 

American IV: The Man Comes Around can be described as a cover album. Thus, most of the songs are covers of old songs by himself and other artists that he performed and recorded in his style. He recorded the entire album on his own with the help of executive producer Rick Rubin. Johnny also featured Don Henley, Fiona Apple, and Nick Cave on some of the album’s songs.

The album was honored with the Best Album of the Year award at the 2003 CMA Awards Event. In addition, it has also received a platinum certification from RIAA (United States).

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