Chris Cornell transformed a pair of Johnny Cash poems into a heart-wrenching acoustic ballad, “You Never Knew My Mind.” The ballad is the late Soundgarden singer’s contribution to a collection of Cash’s unrecorded poetry, lyrics and letters put to music called Forever Words.
“You Never Knew My Mind,” premiered on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 show and arrives on what would have been Cash’s 86th birthday. The song is also the first posthumous track to feature Cornell’s vocals since the singer’s May 2017 death.
Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash’s son John Carter Cash told Lowe about the track’s significance in the collection: “There were actually two pieces – there was ‘You Never Knew My Mind’ and ‘I Never Knew Your Mind’ – they were basically the same lyric that was written from two different standpoints … [Cash] wrote ‘You Never Knew My Mind’ in 1967. I assume and I’m fairly certain it was written for his first wife, Vivian. That was the year that their divorce was legal. It was also the year where his love for my mother flourished. So ‘You Never Knew My Mind’ was not something that he would have released at that time because my mother was standing beside him.
“And Chris took the two pieces and put them together in this one … I can’t listen to it without it laying me down. I mean it still and it did that before Chris passed.”
Cash was a special influence on Cornell and the admiration was mutual. In 1996, Cash covered Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” for his Grammy-winning LP Unchained. “I met [Cash] once or twice in my life, and he was so gracious and he was such an influence on me as a musician,” Cornell said while recording the Forever Words track. “And he also covered a song that I wrote. Since that time, I’ve felt like he’s maybe one of the bigger presences in my life, in terms of artists that I’m a fan of.”
Carter Cash also said of Cornell’s involvement in the project, “Chris told me that he loved my dad not only when country wasn’t cool with all his friends but you know not that many of them knew who Johnny Cash was, but Chris said that he was listening to those live albums of my dad’s, his concept records from the Sixties.”
John Carter Cash co-produced Forever Words, which also features Johnny Cash’s words recorded by artists like Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Jewel, Brad Paisley, Kacey Musgraves and Roseanne Cash. Forever Words is due out April 6th.