|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
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.
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
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
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.’”