November 5: Johnny Cash released American IV: The Man Comes Around in 2002

johnny cash the man comes around

The selection here is at once so obvious and so inappropriate it feels redemptive–as if that old softy Rick Rubin gently advised his fast-failing charge that if there was ever a song he wanted to sing he’d better not put it off till next time, ’cause there probably wasn’t gonna be one.
~Robert Christgau (

Cash’s first three albums with producer Rick Rubin won Grammys, and this one should keep the streak alive. Supplementing his own material with songs from such varied sources as Nine Inch Nails and Hank Williams, it’s an eclectic collection whose highlights convey the adventurism and heart that have characterized this country music great’s best recordings for half a century.
~Robert Hilburn (LA Times)

The Man Comes Around:



Released November 5, 2002
Recorded 2002 At Americans Recording Studios
  • Country
  • Americana
  • rock
  • gospel
Length 51:55
Language English

American IV: The Man Comes Around is the fourth album in the American series by Johnny Cash (and his 87th overall), released in 2002. This is the last album released before his death in 2003. The majority of songs are covers which Cash performs in his own spare style, with help from producer Rick Rubin. For instance, for the song “Personal Jesus”, Rubin asked then-Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante to re-work an acoustic version of Martin Gore’s song, which featured a simple acoustic riff that stripped down the song to a blues style. He receives backing vocal assistance from various artists, including Fiona Apple, Nick Cave, and Don Henley. American IV was the final album Johnny Cash released during his lifetime; though the Unearthed box set was compiled prior to his death (with Cash choosing the tracks – including an early version of “The Man Comes Around” – and writing liner notes), it was not released until two months after he died. It was also his first non-compilation album to go gold (selling over 500,000 copies) in thirty years. Additionally, the album won “Album of the Year” award at the 2003 CMA Awards. It was certified Gold on 4/24/2003 and Platinum on 11/21/2003 by the R.I.A.A.

johnny cash the man comes around back


The video for “Hurt“, a song written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails in 1994, was nominated in seven categories at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards and won the award for Best Cinematography. In February 2003, mere days before his 71st birthday, Cash won another Grammy Award for Best Country Male Vocal Performance for “Give My Love To Rose,” a song Cash had originally recorded in the late 1950s. The music video for “Hurt” also won a Grammy for Best Short Form Video at the 2004 Awards.

Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor admitted that he was initially “flattered” but worried that “the idea of Cash covering “Hurt” sounded a bit gimmicky,” but when he heard the song and saw the video for the first time, Reznor said he was deeply moved and found Cash’s cover beautiful and meaningful, going as far as to say “that song isn’t mine anymore.”


Give My Love To Rose:

Inside 2

Personal Jesus:

Track listing

  1. “The Man Comes Around” (Cash) – 4:26
  2. “Hurt” (Trent Reznor) – 3:38
    Originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails for The Downward Spiral (1994)
  3. “Give My Love to Rose” (Cash) – 3:28
    Originally recorded by Cash for Sun, appears on Sings Hank Williams (1960), also appears on At Folsom Prison (1968)
  4. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Paul Simon) – 3:55
    Originally recorded by Simon and Garfunkel for Bridge over Troubled Water (1970)
  5. “I Hung My Head” (Sting) – 3:53
    Originally recorded by Sting for Mercury Falling (1996)
  6. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Ewan MacColl) – 3:52
    Was a number one hit for Roberta Flack (1972)
  7. “Personal Jesus” (Martin Gore) – 3:20
    Originally recorded by Depeche Mode for Violator (1990)
  8. “In My Life” (Lennon–McCartney) – 2:57
    Originally recorded by The Beatles for Rubber Soul (1965)
  9. “Sam Hall” (Tex Ritter) – 2:40
    Originally recorded by Cash for Sings the Ballads of the True West (1965)
  10. “Danny Boy” (Frederick Weatherly) – 3:19
    First published in 1910, previously recorded by Cash for Orange Blossom Special (1965)
  11. “Desperado” (Glenn Frey/Don Henley) – 3:13
    Originally recorded by The Eagles for Desperado (1973)
  12. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” Duet with Nick Cave (Hank Williams) – 3:03
    Originally recorded by Hank Williams; previously recorded by Cash for Now, There Was a Song! (1960)
  13. “Tear Stained Letter” (Cash) – 3:41
    Originally recorded by Cash for A Thing Called Love (1972)
  14. “Streets of Laredo” – 3:33 (Traditional)
    Previously recorded by Cash for Sings the Ballads of the True West (1965)
  15. “We’ll Meet Again” (Hughie Charles/Ross Parker) – 2:58
    Most famously a hit for Vera Lynn (1939)

In My Life:

More than anything, “American IV” is about that acceptance of the past, about grasping redemption with pride, still feeling the raging pangs of fear but facing that sh*t head on. Johnny’s tired voice was one of the most powerful of its time, but now this old man’s baritone frequently cracks and quivers like a teenager, fully cementing the album’s theme of coming full circle. One of Cash’s greatest moments, “The Man Comes Around” happens at the onset of his epitaph. A song detailing faith, the Rapture, the co-mingling of saints and sinners in the face of God, it’s the perfect accompaniment for what Johnny wanted to tell us. His time was up, but damn it if he wasn’t finally ready for it.
~Sputnik Music


  • Johnny Cash – vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar, arranger, adaptation
  • Don Henley – drums, keyboards, vocals
  • Fiona Apple – vocals
  • Nick Cave – vocals (12)
  • Mike Campbell, John Frusciante, Randy Scruggs – acoustic guitar, guitar
  • Thom Bresh, Jeff Hanna, Kerry Marx, Marty Stuart – acoustic guitar
  • Smokey Hormel – acoustic guitar, slide guitar, guitar
  • Jack Clement – Dobro
  • Joey Waronker – drums
  • David R. Ferguson – Ukulele (9), engineer, mixing
  • Laura Cash – fiddle, production assistant
  • Terry Harrington – clarinet
  • Benmont Tench – organ, piano, harmonium, keyboards, Mellotron, vibraphone, pipe organ, Wurlitzer
  • Roger Manning – piano, Tack piano, Harmonium, Mellotron, Chamberlin, orchestra bells
  • Billy Preston – piano, keyboards (7,13)

Additional personnel

  • Rick Rubin – producer
  • John Carter Cash – producer, engineer
  • Thom Russo, Andrew Scheps, Chuck Turner – engineers
  • Vladimir Meller – mastering
  • Christine Cano – art direction, design
  • Martyn Atkins – photography
  • Lindsay Chase – production coordination
  • Dwight Hume, Jimmy Tittle – production assistants

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