Johnny Cash Had Much to Say About Love. Johnny Cash released close to 100 albums throughout his career. He sang a wide range of songs on a wide range of topics. These included a considerable number of songs about either love or love-adjacent topics. What makes Cash stand out is that he didn’t stick to a single theme for his love songs. Instead, they are every bit as multi-faceted as one would expect from someone with his experiences.
Top 10 Johnny Cash Love Songs
#10 – Darlin’ Companion
“Darlin’ Companion” started as a Lovin’ Spoonful song. That is why the lyrics for the Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash version include a mention of John Sebastian, who was the lead singer and songwriter for Lovin’ Spoonful. Regardless, “Darlin’ Companion” is much like what one would expect based on its name and its nature as a duet. The execution is what enables it to stand head and shoulders over the majority of love songs out there.
#9 – First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
“First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” is yet another cover. In its case, it was written by the singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl for his future wife Peggy Seeger, which was quite unusual because MacColl tended to write very political material. The initial version came out in the late 1950s. Subsequently, “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” saw numerous covers by numerous music acts. Johnny Cash’s version isn’t the most famous of these. Despite that, it has a couple of things going for it. Of course, one would be Johnny Cash’s consistent skill. The other would be the song’s wonderful use of celestial imagery to describe the act of falling in love for the first time.
#8 – A Thing Called Love
“A Thing Called Love” is a salute to the power of love. After all, the song describes a giant of a man being brought to his knees by love before being made to cry by the same. With that said, it should be mentioned that “A Thing Called Love” does see its subject as a positive force in the world. Otherwise, Johnny Cash wouldn’t have ended the song with a bit of thanksgiving that everything will turn out alright because of the power of love. The curious part is that he isn’t referring to romantic love by that point. Instead, he is referring to the familial love that a mother has for her child, which is fair because love is one of those simple-sounding concepts that encompass multitudes.
#7 – You’re the Nearest Thing to Heaven
Cash co-wrote “You’re the Nearest Thing to Heaven” when he was signed to Sun Records. It is the kind of song that sounds perfect when sung by someone with his experience but would be ridiculous when entrusted to someone less experienced. That is because it describes the viewpoint character’s target of affection as being more beautiful than various natural phenomena such as golden sunsets and ocean waters. It is a clever bit of imagery. Directly describing someone’s beauty is difficult, not least because different people find different things beautiful. Indirectly doing through comparison with various natural phenomena is clever because that makes it clear that said individual is supposed to be stunning while leaving it to the listener to come up with their own mental images for what that means. Johnny Cash’s haunting vocals just sell the song that much better.
#6 – I Still Miss Someone
Not every relationship works out. As a result, most people can expect to experience a bit of heartache at some point in their lives. Despite that, it still hurts, which is why Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone” continues to resonate with people decade after decade.
#5 – Rose of My Heart
“Rose of My Heart” is a song about exactly how much the singer loves his significant other. Furthermore, it is a pledge that he will be there whenever he is needed. Such sentiments aren’t uncommon in love songs. After all, it would be a very strange sort of love song if the singer said they didn’t care about their significant other and wouldn’t support their significant other in times of need. “Rose of My Heart” rises above the common crowd by being more mature than most. The lyrics make it clear that the relationship isn’t perfect. Instead, it has its ups and its downs. Even so, the singer accepts that as the way things are, so much so he says he wouldn’t have it any other time way. Now that is a beautiful expression.
#4 – I Walk the Line
It is no exaggeration to say that “I Walk the Line” is one of Johnny Cash’s most famous songs. Indeed, its position is well-earned because it was the first time he had a number-one hit on a Billboard chart, meaning it provided his career with a huge shot of momentum. The song was inspired by Cash’s personal experiences. Specifically, he wrote it when he was still in the U.S. Air Force at a time when he had just gotten married. With that said, the song’s message of upholding personal responsibility while avoiding temptation is rather sad for those who are familiar with that part of Johnny Cash’s life.
#3 – Happiness Is You
Sometimes, the best love songs are the ones that say what they want to say in the most straightforward manner possible. “Happiness Is You” sees Cash doing exactly that. In it, he sings about how his significant other is his fantasy, which is quite a powerful statement to make.
#2 – Ring of Fire
Love can take on a wide range of forms. However, “Ring of Fire” seems to describe the earliest stages when the metaphorical flames of passion tend to burn the hottest. There is some disagreement over exactly who wrote the song and under what circumstances. Still, the fact that it is associated with June Carter at a time when Cash was still in his first marriage gives further nuance to the lyrics that accentuate their point.
#1 – Cause I Love You
“Cause I Love You” claims the number one position on this list because it is just a great listing of all the things that the singer will do because of his love for his significant other. Some of these things are rather fanciful, which provides the song with a nice touch of whimsy. Others are much more practical but nonetheless thoughtful, thus providing the piece with a pleasing sense of balance.
Feature Photo: Joel Baldwin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Johnny Cash Love Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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