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Johnny Cash is a legendary musician and storyteller with a unique voice that sets him apart from all of the other country legends. Not a classically-trained musician, Cash’s vocals distinguish him from others along with the content of his music.
If you are looking for a song that will break your heart, then you have come to the right place.
Here are 10 of the saddest Johnny Cash songs that you need to listen to today!
This song was originally recorded by the band Nine Inch Nails, but Cash revived it with his soulful style. The lyrics convey deep sadness and loss, themes that Johnny Cash was extremely familiar with during his life.
This powerful ballad is an emotionally-devastating masterpiece that is remarkably different from the original and promises to break your heart. Shortly after “Hurt” was recorded, Cash suffered through the loss of his wife and subsequently passed just a short while after.
Related: Best Johnny Cash Love Songs
2. I See a Darkness
“I See a Darkness” may sound like one of the saddest Johnny Cash songs, but it is really quite hopeful. Even though he sees the darkness in his life, he still has the hope that “we can have peace in our lives,” and that “we can light it up forever.”
His iconic voice resonates on this track from his American III: Solitary Man album. This is a beautiful theme from this resonant album.
This is another cover from Johnny Cash that may be just as well-recognized as the original from U2. Listeners comment that this track is full of tragic longing, and that description couldn’t be more perfect even for Cash.
As a definite contender for one of his saddest songs, “One” will bring you to tears with a listen to his melodic voice.
4. She Used to Love Me A Lot
A heartbreaking rendition of a song about lost love, “She Used to Love Me A Lot” is a powerful song about a man who walks out on his woman. Later, she would come to realize that what she needs is “something you ain’t got” even though she used to love him a lot, as the title indicates.
Soak up the beautiful and slow melody indicative of Cash’s particular brand of country music, which sets this mournful song apart from many of its contemporary counterparts.
5. Ain’t No Grave
While this song might be named after an image of death, it holds a lot of promise for Cash as he sings that “ain’t no grave can hold my body down.” It is a spiritual overture that Cash sings to Jesus and to the band of angels that are coming for him.
Despite the overwhelming images of death in this song, he is actually singing about the possibility of eternal life. This is a beautiful interpretation of a classic song released on his posthumous album, American VI: Ain’t No Grave – a fitting addition to the record.
6. I Hung My Head
One of the saddest Johnny Cash songs, “I Hung My Head” tells the story of a man who murders a rider for no apparent reason. He tells an entire story from the shot of the rifle to the moment that he is caught by the sheriff, his ability to feel the “power of death over life.”
Surprisingly, the song sounds less sad than some of the others included on this list. However, the content and message behind the lyrics are what earn it its place here.
7. God’s Gonna Cut You Down
Much like some of the other songs found here, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” is a tremendous song for its storytelling capacity. As many have said, Cash told the best stories toward the end of his discography as this song came out the same year of his death.
Listeners note that is it impossible not to be emotional when you listen to this song, it promises that you will be found out for whatever is done in the dark.
8. Wayfaring Stranger
If you want a song that is truly able to break your heart, then “Wayfaring Stranger” may be just what you need here. Cash sings about the people he will see when he crosses over the Jordan and knows that dark clouds are coming for him.
While this song is not one of Cash’s original pieces, he adds a unique flair to the old hymn that makes it sound much different from the original. His cover is a classic in its own right.
9. Heart of Gold
Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” stands out in the hands of expert singer and musician Johnny Cash. He is searching for what he can’t seem to find – a heart of gold – even though age is catching up with him.
This fits perfectly with what Cash is going through, given that it was published on his posthumous box set Unearthed. He was indeed getting old and death was coming for him, but we will never know if he managed to find what he was searching for all this time.
10. Like the 309
As one of the last songs that Cash ever recorded, “Like the 309,” it is almost as if Cash knows that his time here on earth is limited. He sings about what he wants to happen to his body after his death, where he wants to be in the box on the 309.
If you haven’t fallen in love with some of the other saddest Johnny Cash songs here, this one is sure to do it for you.
Alexandra loves playing the piano and guitar. She has always been a music lover, but it wasn’t until she was in high school that she realized how much she loved to play. It allowed her to express herself without having to be verbally expressive, which is something she found very empowering.