Life ain’t easy for a boy named ‘Sue’

As far as modern day parables go, this tale told by Johnny Cash, in his dry western twang, may not be the most conventional.  The occupants of San Quentin Prison sit, transfixed by a simple story of a man defined by feelings of vengeance against his father.  The inmates smile gleefully as the song “A boy named Sue” comes to a climax as the son crosses paths with the man who gave him his name.  As they listen I wonder how many of them were picturing their fathers at that moment.  I wonder how many were picturing standing in a bloodied battle against the man that were suppose to have raised them well, wailing their hate and disappointment upon him.  There is a strange pleasure in hurting the ones who hurt you, bringing a sense of justice or karmic balance.  However, the tale does not end there.  Parables have a habit of doing that.  Listen to this song.  It puts a smile on your face and something may even happen deeper inside.


5 thoughts on “Life ain’t easy for a boy named ‘Sue’

  1. I love the prison albums – San Quentin and Folsom Prison. He tells a great story, really making his show a time of ‘being together’ rather than ‘I’m the rock star’, and takes his faith and compassion to places it’s needed.

    There’s a story in the liner notes of San Quentin, talking about how Cash hated the place, it felt oppressive and inhuman compared to other prisons and he wasn’t looking forward to playing there. June Carter encouraged him to put his thoughts into a song, which the inmates related to so strongly that he plays it twice in a row.

  2. Favourite Johnny Cash song after “Folsom Prison Blues”.

    Time was, country singers were storytellers first. They were like an updated bunch of the Canterbury pilgrims, telling stories of sin, anger, injustice, and redemption.

    Did you pick up the Willie Nelson/Johnny Cash live album “Storytellers”? Great CD. Very laidback atmosphere. Two friends. Two guitars. On the road again. :)

  3. Might check it out. I’m a bit slow in checking out these guys works as I’ve always attributed it to music our parent’s listened too. I got into Cash’s work when he did a covers album including U2’s One and the Mercy Seat by Nick Cave.

  4. Truth is, our parents are nowhere “cool” enough to listen to songs about prisoners, convicts, murderers and highwaymen. They listened to the bubblegum pop of their day. Haven’t you noticed? Everytime they got together for a karaoke session, it’d be the same old nonsense? “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”, “Too Young”, etc.

    How they lived through the glorious 50-70s without even the mildest acquaintance with Led Zep, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Moody Blues, Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, etc. is beyond me!?!

  5. Ha! Too true, found out my dad never even owned a Beatles album. I think I’ll go an watch Almost Famous again.

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