Johnny Cash The Story Behind His Cover of Nine Inch Nails Hurt & Trent Reznor's Reaction
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Johnny Cash The Story Behind His Cover of Nine Inch Nails Hurt & Trent Reznor's Reaction
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Today we take a look at why Johnny Cash covered Nine Inch Nails song Hurt. We also discuss Trent Reznor's Reaction To check out why he covered the Soundgarden song 'Rusty Cage'

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Almost a year before his death Johnny Cash at the age of 70 would gain a younger generation of fans by covering Nine Inch Nails' 1994 song "Hurt". But how did he end up covering that song? Seems like a strange choice but also a very appropriate song given that time in his life. What's beautiful about the song is that it takes on an entirely different meaning based on who's singing it. Trent Reznor's intention was to have the song about a young person spiral into either self-harm or drug addiction but Cash gives the song a new light. Cash interpreted the lyrics to be about an older man who knew his life was about to be over.

Prior to recording and releasing Hurt in 2002, Cash of course had a long and storied career. Born in Arkansas in 1932, he would sign his first major record deal in the mid 50s to Sun Records and he would soon establish himself as one of the greatest country and rock singers of all time with classics like "I Walked the Line" and "Ring of Fire". Johnny Cash was the rock n' roll rebel as he was given the name 'the man in black'

By the later part of his career in the 70s and 80s, Cash had expanded beyond music appearing in both television and film. As the 90s began, the music industry saw a dramatic shift as alternative rock is what the record labels were interested in and while a lot of alternative bands had their roots in punk, those same artists paid tribute to Cash.

Cash would team up with Nirvana bassist, Krist Novoselic to do a Willie Nelson tribute album and would also appear on the U2 album, 1993's Zooropa on the song "Wanderer". It was that appearance and his appearance at a Bob Dylan tribute show in 1992 that got him the attention of big-time producer Rick Rubin.

Rubin, at that point in his career had a record label named American Recordings which used to be called Def American and he was scouting for acts to add to his growing roster. Rubin felt that Cash was still an important figure in music who'd been treated unfairly by the industry. Now it seemed like an odd choice for Reuben's label given his past roster of clients but then again Rubin has worked with an eclectic group of artists including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, Run DMC and Slayer. Rubin would offer Cash something he offers all his artists, creative freedom.

Here's Cash discussing how he initially first met Rick Rubin and how he wasn't interested in even speaking with him.

"How did he come, how did he approach you to be on his label?" "I was doing a show in California and when I came offstage, my manager Lou Robin came to me and said 'there's a man here named Rick Rubin that said he would like to meet you that has a record company and he would like to record you' and I said, 'I don't want to meet him', and he said 'yeah, well I think you might like him'. I said 'why', and he said, 'well he's different, he's not like the rest of them'. So I told him, bring him back and I went back and there's Rick and immediately I liked him and I said, 'so if you had me on your record label, what would you do that nobody else has done?' and he said, 'what I would do is let you sit down before the microphone with your guitar and sing every song you want to record, just you and your guitar' and I said 'you're talking about a dream I had a long time ago to do an album called late and alone' and he said 'that's it' he said that's the kind of record that we want to make'. Well that was my first American record."

Cash would sign with Rick Rubin's record label but a lot of people upon hearing the news were confused and even a little weary including Cash's own daughter as exemplified by this interview.

"I'd heard of Slayer before but you know the thing that intrigued me that the man that produced the rap music and the Chili Peppers and Slayer and all of them was interested in me personally".

"The opportunity of working with someone like him really excited me so I tracked him down and we spent some time together. I went to see a couple of his shows and we started hanging out a bit and talking about music."

Cash and Rubin followed up American Recordings with Unchained in 1996 and that album would feature covers of Beck's Soundgarden and Tom Petty and the album would get a Grammy nomination for best country album.




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