Johnny Cash’s long and arduous trip to the top of the musical mountain is not one without its bumps in the road. The singer had struggled more than most to find a professional and personal equilibrium but in this clip, taken from his performance at San Quentin Prison in 1969, Cash looks at peace.
Taking place in 1969 as part of the live album recording for At San Quentin the performance was recorded by the English television network, Granada TV and lets us all revel at the moment Johnny Cash performed the song he wrote with Bob Dylan for the inmates at San Quentin Prison.
It wasn’t the first time Cash had seen the inside of a prison. The singer had spent much of the previous two decades frequenting them in some capacity or other. Whether it was in his imagination for his 1955 hit ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, his series of ‘sleep it off’ misdemeanours or recording the live album inside that very prison—both of which would see him behind bars.
The success of that album would give Johnny Cash the license to record another but it would require his reconciliation with prescription drug abuse as well as his marriage to June Carter to allow the singer to finally get back on his feet and deliver the performance he felt San Quentin deserved.
That moment came in 1969 as The Man in Black returned to the inside of prison once more to deliver what is arguably the best set of his life. Fiery and furious, Cash delivered a host of dynamic and downright brilliant tunes to set the inmates at San Quentin off hooting and hollering. It included ‘Jackson’, ‘I Walk The Line’ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ to name a few.
Included in that set is the song he co-wrote with the brilliant Bob Dylan, ‘Wanted Man’. The song remains a classic from their bootleg sessions but was given the live run-out it deserved, inside the prison walls, just a week after it was written.
Watch the performance of ‘Wanted Man’ by Johnny Cash below: