Johnny Cash struggled with his journey to God. Before turning to Christ and bringing us all the Johnny Cash gospel songs we enjoy these days, the singer had to battle the ills of his addictions and even tried to kill himself. What this man went through proves that being a Christian is not for chickens.
While Johnny Cash was entirely deprived of his personal life, he was quite the opposite when it came to his faith. Her love for God spills over into her songs and is usually the star of her most famous tracks.
Hoping to share what we think are his best gospel songs, we’ve revisited all of Johnny Cash Gospel albums and put together a list of 17 tracks we think are his best.
1. He turned water into wine
Cash wrote this song for the album Holy Land in May 1968 during his second trip to Israel. While driving from Cana to Tiberias with June Carter, his wife, he finished writing it in a few minutes.
“He turned water into wine” tells how Jesus miraculously turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana. It is considered by many to be the greatest gospel song the musician has ever written.
2. The Man in Black
“Man in Black,” released in 1971 for his album of the same name, is a song that ultimately shows who Cash is and how his faith in God defines everything he does. It is also a protest song he wrote against the unfair treatment rich politicians inflict on the poor, as well as mass incarceration and the war in Vietnam.
He sings there that he wears black for those who have never heard the words of Jesus about love and charity as the path to happiness. Later, the black outfit becomes her distinct style of costume on stage.
3. Why me Lord?
Cash asks a crucial question in this song: why are some people so lucky while others seem left behind? Originally written and recorded by Kris Kristofferson, the song is about when a sinner realizes how much he needs the Lord’s love and grace.
4. Hurt (Nine Inch Nails Cover)
“Hurt” was originally written by Trent Reznor, songwriter of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and was released in 1995. Although the song received critical acclaim, it’s safe to say that Reznor did not seek spiritual truths when he wrote it. After all, it was a song about depression, loneliness and self-harm.
That said, Cash made it an ode to an even darker world when he covered it for his 2022 American IV album. It’s become a song that shows a moving perspective of a man’s spiritual limits.
Additionally, publications such as NME consider Cash’s version of “Hurt” music video to be the greatest of all time. Reznor praises Cash for his rendition of the song, saying it’s heartfelt and meaningful. He even goes so far as to say that the song is no longer his.
5. God will bring you down
First recorded in 1946 by the Golden Gate Quartet, God’s Going to Cut You Down is a song covered by many artists. The song warns sinners that they can never escape God’s inevitable judgment.
Cash recorded his version for his 2003 album American V: A Hundred Highways. He used an arrangement for the music that was noticeably different from popular versions of the famous gospel song.
6. In the soft by and by
Johnny Cash’s “In the Sweet By and By” is another one of those gospel songs covered by many country artists. Some artists with notable covers of the song were Elvis Presley, Dolly Patron, Loretta Lynn, and even Kenny Rogers.
The song is about the promise of life after death and its sweetness. Cash’s take on the song has a much-needed sentimentality and nostalgia vibe.
7. Where are you there (When they crucified my Lord?)
“Where You There (When They Crucified My Lord?)” is an American religious song recorded in 1899. Cash’s version of the song does not deviate much from the traditional version. The only difference is that it is sung using Cash’s whiskey-soaked baritone voice.
Finely delivered in noir-folk fashion, “Redemption” is a straightforward song about sin and redemption. In it, Cash speaks to listeners, telling them to be grateful to God for redemption.
That’s Enough is another one of those Johnny Cash gospel songs that hits all the right notes. The song is about how God will always be there for you as a comforter to broken hearts and souls.
It’s one of the most comforting songs you’ve ever heard from Cash. If you feel alone and helpless, listen to this song and you will immediately feel better.
10. Help Me
In this gospel song, Cash delivers another stellar performance. It paints a picture of how humility can feel so sweet. It’s a hymn that focuses on the humbling moment when someone realizes they need divine intervention when they’re already out of breath.
11. Just As I Am
In the song “Just As I Am”, Johnny Cash confesses his spiritual bankruptcy. He declares that he is the greatest sinner of all. The best thing about Cash’s rendition of this classic song is how it conveys a peace that seems to pass all understanding.
12. My children walk in the truth
“My Children Walk in Truth” is a song that brings peace to Christian parents. It is about knowing that they will all be reunited with their children and grandchildren with the Lord in Heaven one day. The song urges parents to pray for the next generation to have the strength to fight the growing pressure of people who want them to deny Christ.
13. The Man Returns
“The Man Comes Around” is a song that resulted from Cash’s desire to write a modern gospel song. It’s a song with the same vibe as U2’s ‘The Wanderer’, aimed at young fans who have just discovered it.
The 2002 song is inspired by a biblical-style dream from the Book of Job. It focuses on the second coming of Christ and the final judgment we all face.
Cash is believed to have spent more time working on this song than any other song in his collection. “The Man Comes Around” is arguably the best song man has ever written. It’s personal, poetic and biblical and the perfect commemoration of his illustrious career.
The gospel song “Belshazzar” is about a wicked king who refuses to bend the knee to God. The song says that we have all sinned and lacked God. The song says that the only way for us to be set free from sin is through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.
15. What is Truth
“What is Truth” was written in late 1969 by Johnny Cash after he first met evangelist Billy Graham. The Evangelist sought out Cash’s consul on a few points. Among those issues was Graham’s struggle to connect with Franklin, his teenage son.
The song’s lyrics address the generational and cultural divide facing the nation. It also talks about the world waking up to a newborn baby.
16. Hands of God
This Johnny Cash gospel song is about the many times we have felt abandoned in this world. It reminds us that God is with us, especially in the worst times when we think all hope seems lost.
The song also emphasizes God’s promise to never give up on us, especially during the toughest times. The only thing we have to do is cling to Jesus Christ and trust him.
17. The preacher said, Jesus said
Johnny Cash is known as a person who keeps his friends close and his best friends even closer. In 1971, his fantastic relationship with evangelist Billy Graham spilled over into the recording studio for his album Man in Black. The album’s interludes featured the lyrics spoken by the famed evangelist.
Of the many gospel songs on Johnny Cash’s countless gospel albums, “The Preacher Said, Jesus Said” is his most overtly Christian song ever recorded. Billy Graham himself quotes John 14:6 in the track.
It should also be mentioned that this song was recorded and featured by Cash at the height of his fame. To top it off, he did it all on The Johnny Cash Show, his top-rated ABC series.
Our final thoughts on these Johnny Cash gospel songs
These are just 17 of countless incredible songs from many Johnny Cash Gospel albums over the years. Many more will surely blow your mind once you listen to them. These are just songs that hold a special place in our hearts.
Throughout his career as an artist, Johnny Cash has achieved artistic and commercial success in several musical genres. No wonder since just in his gospel songs, we feel Johnny Cash’s talent for mixing American, folk, rockabilly and country genres.