The Ghost of Johnny Cash

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I have mentioned elsewhere on the interwebs how much I enjoy Kerosene Halo, the latest project by Michael Roe of the 77s and Derri Daugherty of The Choir. I have been playing the latest albums quite a bit and have even created a playlist of Kerosene Halo, Michael’s and Derri’s independent work, and the Lost Dogs. You might like it: Kerosene Halo & Friends. One of the songs that has really moved me is “The Ghost of Johnny Cash.” The lyrics include:

johnny_cash_el_paso_mugshot_1965johnny’s quotin from the Bible
i’m tryin to steer this leaky craft
his familiar voice reminds me
i’m a man who’s cut in half
his tarnished halo slips and shines
as ragin billows crash
i’m riding out the deluge
with the ghost of Johnny Cash

SOME SINNERS NEED THEIR SAINTS TO BE
SURVIVORS OF THE FALL
CAUSE WHEN YOU’RE DOWN HERE ON YOUR KNEES
MOST ANGELS LOOK TOO TALL
SO I’LL JUST LIVE THIS LIFE OUT
DUST TO DUST AND ASH TO ASH
WITH MY GUIDE FROM THE OTHER SIDE
THE GHOST OF JOHNNY CASH

Searching for the original artist I found that it was written by Phil Madeira with his friend Chuck Cannon.1 The back story is incredibly sad and powerful. Phil had just broken up with his wife and, as the song opens, had awoken at 3 am from a vivid and traumatic dream, but one in which the man in black helped to steer him to safety.

A powerful song on a wonderful album. Give it a listen. And remember that “some sinners need their saints to be survivors of the fall cause when you’re down here on your knees most angels look too tall.” The flawed yet saved are the ones who inspire me the most, someone I can relate to like Gideon or Paul. We are called to serve, called to follow, and yet we remain human and frail.

So I face the salty waves that bash against the prow of my rowboat, pulling against the oars and

I’LL JUST LIVE THIS LIFE OUT
DUST TO DUST AND ASH TO ASH
TIL I’M RAISIN HELL IN HEAVEN
WITH THE GHOST OF JOHNNY CASH

 
  1. The lack of capitalization followed by all caps is from Phil’s own posting of the lyrics. []

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