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Music

How Queen Elizabeth II inspired Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash is one of the most iconic musicians of all time. ‘The Man in Black’ was admired for his musicianship and rebelliousness, topped off by that trademark baritone voice that was as warming as a hearth in the winter. In addition to this, he always espoused a humble personality, which remains refreshing to this day, nearly 20 years after his passing.

It’s a testament to Cash’s character that he manages to live on through the sheer force of his iconoclasm. 

One of the clearest indicators of his artistic potency, apart from the countless classics that he delivered, was that he helped nurture a fledgling Bob Dylan. This reflects the extent to which Cash’s influence has permeated our culture. As indirectly, through Bob Dylan’s artistic output, he has also managed to influence legions of budding musicians. 

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A hero of rebel country, Cash is hailed as a blue-collared heavyweight who combined the defiant essence of Robin Hood with cocaine-fuelled hijinks. He deviated from the rhinestone wearing country and other contemporary musical styles. A true maverick, we will never forget the man who always walked the line.  

For a man whose career spanned decades, it is fitting that his creativity was inspired by a whole host of different things, be it religion, life experiences or works of fiction. One of the most surprising helped form ‘The Man Comes Around’, the title track from his 2002 record. One of the last songs he wrote before dying; it is an emotionally affecting piece, to say the least. 

Although it contains a whole host of Biblical references, notably mentioning the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, there was another element that inspired the song, and it’s something that may take you completely by surprise. 

It is well known that Cash was prone to vivid, often unsettling dreams that sometimes inspired his work. Famously, he dreamt of the Mexican horn section for 1963’s ‘Ring of Fire’ before adding them. This was a trend that never ceased, and for ‘The Man Comes Around‘, the sovereign of England, Queen Elizabeth II, played a part in helping the track come to fruition. 

In a scarily prophetic trip to the dream world, the Queen compared ‘The Man in Black’ to “a thorn tree in a whirlwind”. Taken aback by such a cutting statement from this haunting vision of the monarch, Cash went on a quest to find the origins of the line, as he was curious as to whether he’d read or heard the phrase before. Eventually, he found what he was looking for, in the form of a similar expression in the Book of Job. 

One of the strangest convergences in music history, the role of Queen Elizabeth II only adds to this song’s dense backstory. 

Listen to ‘The Man Comes Around’ below.