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Cash’s Forty Shades of Green

By Debbie McGoldrick

The new Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line is, in a word, superb, and it got us thinking about the country legend’s Scotch Irish roots.

Though he was always known as the Man in Black, Cash was also the guy who loved the green, as in Ireland, so much so that he penned a song, “Forty Shades of Green,” after his first trip there in the 1960s.

The lyrics go like this: “I close my eyes and picture the emerald of the sea; from the fishing boats at Dingle to the shores of Dundee; I miss the River Shannon and folks at Skipa-Ree; the moor lands and the midlands with their forty shades of green.” Lyrics from a proud Scots Irish American for sure!

Cash performed all over Ireland on a countless number of occasions, and he loved the country for being a place where he could “get away from it all,” as he was fond of saying.

Johnny Cash

Of course Johnny’s beloved June Carter was with him on his Irish tours, and in one Internet report we found about a show they did at the Carlton Cinema in Dublin in the early 1960s, the Statler Brothers were the opening act.

Johnny’s lifelong band, the Tennessee Three, elder statesmen now just as their leader would have been if he were still alive, are resuscitating their career now that Walk the Line has reignited interest in all things Cash.

The band is preparing a new Cash tribute album, We Still Miss Someone, and guess where they just completed a multi-date tour? Yup, the land of the forty shades of green.

A galaxy of recording artists, both contemporary and old timers, were influenced by Cash’s trail-blazing greatness, including, of course, U2. At the time of Cash’s death in 2003 Bono said, “I considered myself a friend, he considered me a fan - he indulged me. He showed me around his house, his ranch, his zoo (seriously, he had a zoo in Nashville), his faith, his musicianship — it was a lot to take in. He was more than wise. In a garden full of weeds — the oak tree.”

U2 and Cash recorded a song together called “The Wanderer,” which appears on the band’s 1993 album Zooropa. The band and Cash go way back, having first hooked up in the 1980s.

In an old Rolling Stone interview, Bono remembered how Cash’s dark humour was on display during a meal he shared with Cash and U2 bassist Adam Clayton.

“We bowed our heads and John spoke this beautiful, poetic grace,” Bono said, “and we were all humbled and moved. Then he looked up afterwards and said, ‘Sure miss the drugs, though.’”


 © IrishAbroad.com 2009