One of my favorite Johnny Cash stories revolves around his duet of Bob Marley’s anthem “Redemption Song” with Joe Strummer of The Clash. That is some wild chemistry. Cash was recording at Rick Rubin’s house in LA and they were sifting through songs for “American IV: The Man Comes Around.” Strummer was on vacation and came by Rubin’s every day so he could watch Cash sing. Strummer extended his vacation and had been hanging out at the house for a week and a half. Because Cash had a home in Jamaica, they decided to do a reggae song. (“If you’re going to do a song from Jamaica, it has to be a Bob Marley song,” said Cash.) Rubin talked Cash and Strummer into singing “Redemption Song” as a duet while Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) played guitar.
According to Rubin, “There was one line I was wary about because it was not good English and I said, ‘Johnny do you want to change this word to say it the way you’d say it?’” Cash looked at Rubin and said, “Bob Marley wrote that. I can’t change that!” That is top-shelf respect – and one more reason why I love The Man in Black.