While Johnny Cash was both a singer and a songwriter, sometimes he was just the singer and did away with the songwriting part of it; yes, even Johnny Cash performed and recorded "cover tunes". In music a cover tune is a new performance or recording of an old song made popular by someone else. The last part of that sentence is the key to defining the term "cover". I wouldn't count a song as a cover if someone else wrote it but never released it in their name. To be a true cover; someone else had to write, release and have some association and popularity with the song first, then it can be "covered" by someone else.

The concept of a major artist covering a song isn't that uncommon. Most artists that aren't one hit wonders' will cover a song or two at some point in their career. With Johnny's career almost setting a world record (nearly 50 years), he has quite a few covers attributed to him. Interestingly, many of these were toward the end of Johnny's career, during the "American Recordings" albums that he released from 1994 - 2010. More interesting to me is that almost without exception on the "American Recordings" releases; Johnny essentially annexed each of the songs. He totally owned the song and redefined the cultural reference to the song. Think "Hurt". With all due respect to Nine Inch Nails, do you really think that in 50 years people will remember their version of the song? What about "Rusty Cage", "I've Been Everywhere", "Personal Jesus", or "God's Gonna Cut You Down"? Did you know "I've Been Everywhere" was a number 1 song in Country Music in 1962? Can you name who originally recorded it? It was Hank Snow but even he didn't originally write it. When you hear the song, "I've Been Everywhere" does any other name come to mind other than Johnny Cash? There are so many other great cover songs on these "American Recordings" releases that when you compare them to the originals, there really is no comparison. Johnny Cash made them better. Much better! One of the many services he provided to the world. Thanks Johnny.
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