Johnny Cash – Hurt

I love Johnny Cash. He is an American original. He is the king of outlaw country music, the Man in Black. Cash had a career spanning nearly 50 years. He was a versatile artist who did pop., rockabilly, folk, gospel and rock, in addition to country music. This crossover appeal earned him the rare honor of being inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.

Cash is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide.

Cash was also an accomplished actor, appearing in film and TV.

“Hurt” is a 2003 cover song by Johnny Cash, written by industrial rock group Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor.

Johnny Cash is brutally honest in this video. He displays intense pain, regret, and the hurt he is experiencing. In his life, Cash struggled with alcohol and drug abuse. Although the mood is somber, the overall message is positive since Cash is telling us the only thing that meant anything (compared to his “empire of dirt”) are those that we love and cherish. Also, in the montage towards the end of the video, which is showing various scenes interspersed with clips from Cash’s life, it several times shows Christ being crucified for our sins and it also shows a metal cross gleaming in the sunlight. I believe this was Cash’s way of expressing his sincere Christian faith and letting us know that all is not despair, and that despite his pain, he has hope in Christ.

This was the most moving music video I’ve ever seen. And the song delivered by Cash is extremely emotional and moving. If this song doesn’t touch your heart you’re probably a reprobate. Cash said this was his goodbye song.

It’s rare to get this deep level of introspection, and emotional rawness in contemporary entertainment.

The music video was directed by former Nine Inch Nails collaborator Mark Romanek, who sought to capture the essence of Cash, both in his youth and in his older years. In a montage of shots of Cash’s early years, twisted imagery of fruit and flowers in various states of decay, seem to capture both his legendary past and the stark and seemingly cruel reality of the present. Much of the video is in a style deliberately reminiscent of vanitas paintings, thus emphasizing the lyrics’ mood of the futility and passing nature of human achievements. According to literature professor Leigh H. Edwards, the music video portrays “Cash’s own paradoxical themes”.

Romanek had this to say about his decision to focus on the House of Cash museum in Nashville:

It had been closed for a long time; the place was in such a state of dereliction.
That’s when I got the idea that maybe we could be extremely candid about the
state of Johnny’s health, as candid as Johnny has always been in his songs.

When the video was filmed in February 2003, Cash was 71 years old and had serious health problems. His frailty is clearly evident in the video. He died seven months later, on September 12; his wife, June Carter Cash, who is shown gazing at her husband in two sequences of the video, had died on May 15 of the same year.

In July 2011, the music video was named one of “The 30 All-TIME Best Music Videos” by Time.[26] It was ranked the greatest music video of all time by NME.

The house where Cash’s music video for “Hurt” was shot, which was Cash’s home for nearly 30 years, was destroyed in a fire on April 10, 2007.


  • The Johnny Cash cover was given the Country Music Association award for “Single of the Year” in 2003. It ranked as CMT‘s top video for 2003, No. 1 on CMT’s 100 Greatest Country Music Videos the following year (and again in 2008), and No. 1 on the Top 40 Most Memorable Music Videos on MuchMoreMusic’s Listed in October 2007. As of March 2016, the single occupies the number nine spot on Rate Your Music‘s Top Singles of the 2000s. The song is also Cash’s sole chart entry on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, where it hit No. 33 in 2003. In June 2009, the song was voted No. 1 in UpVenue’s Top 10 Best Music Covers.
  • “Hurt” was nominated for six awards at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, winning for Best Cinematography. With the video, Johnny Cash became the oldest artist ever nominated for an MTV Video Music Award. Justin Timberlake, who won Best Male Video that year for “Cry Me a River“, said in his acceptance speech that the MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video should have gone to Cash.
  • The music video won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.
  • In May 2010, ‘Hurt’ was voted the fifth most influential video of all time by MySpace.
  • In October 2011, NME placed it at number 35 on its list “150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years”.
  • In a 2014 survey conducted by the BBC the UK public voted the Johnny Cash version the second greatest cover version of all time.


I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

2 responses to “Johnny Cash – Hurt”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: