Friday, May 8, 2020

That Lucky Old Sun—Murfin Home Confinement Music Festival 2020

That Lucky Old Sun sung by Johnny Cash.

The Sun is shining brightly in McHenry County but temperatures are plunging and it will be well below freezing Saturday morning with the possibility of a flake or two in the air.  That’s a recipe for Coronavirus ambivalence and angst just the mood for Johnny Cash’s version of That Lucky Old Sun with music by Beasley Smith and words by Haven Gillespie. Like Ol' Man River, its lyrics contrasted the toil and intense hardship of the singer’s life with the obliviousness of the natural world.

Frainkie Laine was featured on the sheet music for That Lucky Old Sun.
The song was clearly written to reflect the experience and voice of a Black laborer or sharecropper but Frankie Laine first scored a #1 hit with it in 1949 with another White singer, Vaughn Monroe hard on his heels.  Louis Armstrong only reached #24 the same year.
Other significant covers over the years included Pat Boone (yeesh!), Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, George Benson, and Willie Nelson.

A grizzled Johnny Cash in his late years.
But Cash’s version is practically a scab ripped of wound.  In 2000 Cash released American III: Solitary Man, the third and final album in his Amirican series.  Between American II: Unchained and Solitary Man Cash’s health seriously declined and he was hospitalized with pneumonia.  The illness forced him to curtail his touring. The album contained his response to his illness with selections like Tom Petty’s I Won't Back Down and version of U2’s One.  Cash’s deep voice was rawer and raspier and stripped down arrangements by producer Rick Rubin let the songs shine, as one reviewer put it, as a “raw-boned meditation on redemption and death.”

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