Song Stories

“Folsom Prison Blues”

Johnny Cash | 1956

Prison always suited Johnny Cash, even if he never spent much time there beyond the occasional live performance. And while charming some 2,000 inmates would prove a tall order for most, these prisoners were Cash's kindred spirits -- it's clear in their explosive applause when the Man in Black snarls, "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." The outlaw line came to Cash while envisioning "the worst reason...for killing another person," he once said. "It did come to mind quite easily, though." The live take, recorded at California's Folsom Prison in January 1968, offers a heaving helping of American goth. And these jailbirds eat it up.

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

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