Countryklassieker du jour: The Man in Black

Het bekendste stukje zelfmythologisering uit de geschiedenis van de populaire muziek. Oorspronkelijk droeg Cash (en droegen de leden van zijn band) zwart omdat het niet altijd mogelijk was tijdens een tournee de kleren te wassen en vuil op zwarte kleren nou een keer wat minder opvalt dan op witte of gele. Dat doet aan de song verder niks af. Cash’ sociale engagement was geen pose en iemand die zóveel groter was dan het leven zélf had het volste recht een mythe te creëren: “I wore black because I liked it. I still do, and wearing it still means something to me. It’s still my symbol of rebellion – against a stagnant status quo, against our hypocritical houses of God, against people whose minds are closed to others’ ideas”

Cash’ stellingname in deze song werd hem niet door iedereen in dank afgenomen. De VS was in 1971 al net zo verdeeld als in 2021 en Cash’ kritiek op de oorlog in Vietnam (“And I wear it for the thousands who have died/Believing that the Lord was on their side/I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died/Believing that we all were on their side”) kwam hard aan. Een maand na de uitzending cancelde ABC – ondanks de hoge kijkcijfers – de Johnny Cash Show.

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black
Why you never see bright colors on my back
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down
Living in the hopeless, hungry side of town
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime
But is there because he’s a victim of the time

I wear the black for those who’ve never read
Or listened to the words that Jesus said
About the road to happiness through love and charity
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me

Well, we’re doing mighty fine, I do suppose
In our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back
Up front there ought to be a man in black

I wear it for the sick and lonely old
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold
I wear the black in mourning for the lives that could have been
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men

And I wear it for the thousands who have died
Believing that the Lord was on their side
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died
Believing that we all were on their side
Well, there’s things that never will be right I know
And things need changing everywhere you go
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day
And tell the world that everything’s okay
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
Until things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black

Uitgelichte afbeelding: By Heinrich Klaffs –, CC BY-SA 2.0,