Top 20 Johnny Cash Songs, Ranked main image
Scroll Down To Continue
(Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Top 20 Johnny Cash Songs, Ranked

20. "It Ain’t Me, Babe"

20. "It Ain’t Me, Babe"
  • Released: 1965
  • Peak Billboard Position: #4
  • Weeks on Chart: 22

A cover of the 1964 song by Bob Dylan, Cash transformed the original somber melody of “It Ain’t Me Babe” into an upbeat country hit featuring June Carter. It stayed on the charts for 22 weeks! Despite the tone change, the lyrics remain melancholic, with the singer telling someone they can’t give them the love they want.

(Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

19. "Daddy Sang Bass"

19. "Daddy Sang Bass"
  • Released: 1968
  • Peak Billboard Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 20
     

In “Daddy Sang Bass,” Cash talks about growing up in a poor religious family who used music as an outlet. Written by Cash’s friend Carl Perkins, the two bonded over finding God to overcome addiction. The lyrics reference the Carter Family song “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” with Cash stating that one day, his family will sing together again in heaven.

(Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

18. "Orange Blossom Special"

18. "Orange Blossom Special"
  • Released: 1965
  • Peak Billboard Position: #3
  • Weeks on Chart: 16
     

A standard bluegrass song, “Orange Blossom Special” is named after a deluxe passenger train that ran between New York City and Miami. Originally written by Ervin Rouse, the song was inspired by Rouse watching the train passing by his Florida farm. It features two harmonicas that mimic the sound of a train’s horn

(Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

17. "The Matador"

17. "The Matador"
  • Released: 1963
  • Peak Billboard Position: #2
  • Weeks on Chart: 16
     

The 11th track on his 1968 album Old Golden Throat, “The Matador” is a Latin-style romancer. It was written by Cash and his wife, June, and discusses resilience and courage. Here, Cash sings about being a matador at his final bullfight. His former lover is in the crowd with another man, so the narrator wants to leave them knowing he’s one of the greatest matadors!

(Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

16. "Big River"

16. "Big River"
  • Released: 1958
  • Peak Billboard Position: #4
  • Weeks on Chart: 14
     

Set against the backdrop of the Mississippi River, "Big River" is a riveting tale of adventure and longing. The song's driving rhythm mirrors the relentless flow of the river itself, captivating listeners from start to finish. Cash's gravelly voice delivers the narrative with raw emotion, painting vivid images of a journey filled with excitement and heartache.

(Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

15. "All Over Again"

15. "All Over Again"
  • Released: 1958
  • Peak Billboard Position: #4
  • Weeks on Chart: 18
     

"All Over Again" is a poignant reflection on the cycle of love and loss. Cash's rich vocals resonate with bittersweet honesty as he sings of repeating mistakes and enduring heartbreak. The song's gentle melody and introspective lyrics capture the complexities of relationships, offering solace to those trapped in a familiar pattern of longing and regret.

(CBS Photo Archive/CBS/Getty Images)

14. "One Piece at a Time"

14. "One Piece at a Time"
  • Released: 1976
  • Peak Billboard Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 15
     

Embodying the struggles and desires of the working class, “One Piece at a Time” takes inspiration from Cash’s stint as an autoworker. In the song, Cash laments on the fact that he can’t afford a nice car, and begins to steal parts from the factory to make his own. By the end, he’s Frankensteined a car together and drives it around town, saying: “I got it once piece at a time, and it didn’t cost me a dime!”

(“Country Music Hall of Fame”/Cliff/CC BY 2.0 DEED/Flickr)

13. "The Man Comes Around"

13. "The Man Comes Around"
  • Released: 2002
  • Didn't Chart on Billboard
  • Listed as the 296th best song of the 2000s by Pitchfork

Drawing inspiration and imagery from the Book of Revelation, Cash describes the arrival of the apocalypse in the song “The Man Comes Around.” Written for his wife and released just before their passing, Cash worried that his sins would doom him on Judgement Day. His unique, rich baritone vocals slowly carry the listener through the end of the world. Though it didn’t chart, the song contains some of Cash’s most powerful, haunting lyrics.

(“Johnny Cash 1970-2000”/Thank You (24 Millions) views/CC BY 2.0 DEED/Flickr)

12. "Flesh and Blood"

12. "Flesh and Blood"
  • Released: 1970
  • Peak Billboard Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 13
     

“Flesh and Blood” highlights the complexities of human relationships. In the song, Cash describes an idyllic afternoon spent with his wife. Sat by a stream “against a sky of baby blue, beside the lily pads,” Cash sings about how it’s all very beautiful, but the permanence of his love for his wife is all he needs. 

(Frank Edwards/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

11. "A Thing Called Love"

11. "A Thing Called Love"
  • Released: 1972
  • PeakBillboard Position: #2
  • Weeks on Chart: 16
     

The title track of his 1972 album, “A Thing Called Love” is about the intangible yet powerful nature of love. The ballad was written by Jerry Reed and went on to become one of the most beloved Johnny Cash songs! While the song’s story is open to interpretation, it represents the sweet effect that love can have on people. 

(Ollie Atkins, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

10. "Sunday Morning Coming Down"

10. "Sunday Morning Coming Down"
  • Released: 1970
  • Peak Billboard Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 15
     

“Sunday Morning Coming Down” takes listeners on a journey of an alcoholic’s Sunday after waking up hungover. As an outsider, the narrator watches people leaving church and playing at the park, highlighting the loneliness that he feels. Though it was written by Kris Kristofferson, a janitor at Columbia Records at the time, the story was relatable to Cash and his experiences with addiction. 

(“Johnny Cash”/Steven Miller/CC BY 2.0 DEED/Flickr)

9. "Don't Take Your Guns to Town"

9. "Don't Take Your Guns to Town"
  • Released: 1958
  • Peak Billboard Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 20
     

In “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town,” Cash tells the story of a young, naive boy named Billy Joe, who leaves his home with a gun on his hip against his mother’s wishes. When he arrives in town, he stops at the bar and grabs a drink. A man starts making fun of him, causing the boy to reach for his gun. The man aims and kills Billy Joe as the words of his mother’s warning close out the song. The song’s storytelling and message helped the song reach the #1 position on the Billboard charts. 

(Colin Escott/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

8. "Get Rhythm"

8. "Get Rhythm"
  • Released: 1956
  • Peak Billboard Position: #23
  • Weeks on Chart: 12
     

This upbeat song encourages listeners to get up and dance the blues away! Afflicted by depression and addiction, Cash wanted “Get Rhythm” to represent the will to overcome one’s troubles. This catchy tune is a refreshing break in Cash’s usual discography, highlighting the singer’s varied range. 

(Colin Escott/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

7. "Jackson"

7. "Jackson"
  • Released: 1967
  • Peak Billboard Position: #2
  • Weeks on Chart: 17
     

A duet with Johnny and his wife, June, “Jackson” tells the story of a troubled marriage, with the pair arguing throughout the song. Johnny says, “I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,” and June responds, “Go play your hand… make a big fool of yourself.” They tease each other throughout the song, claiming that they’re gonna make it big while the other watches.

(Image via Columbia Records)

6. "Hurt"

6. "Hurt"
  • Released: 2002
  • Peak Billboard Position: #9
  • Weeks on Chart: 27
     

“Hurt” is one of Cash’s most painful songs. It’s a cover of a song by Nine Inch Nails, with Cash singing it from his perspective as an old man nearing the end of his life. The song went on to win the Single of the Year award at the 37th CMA’s, and the music video was nominated for 7 MTV Music Video Awards and a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video! 

(Records of the White House Photo Office [George W. Bush Administration], 1/20/2001 - 1/20/2009, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

5. "Man in Black"

5. "Man in Black"
  • Released: 1971
  • Peak Billboard Position: #3
  • Weeks on Chart: 13
     

Known as the “Man in Black,” Cash explains why he wears black in this song. Though he admitted it was partly because black was easier to clean, Cash wore black in honor of the “poor and beaten down,” as well as prisoners and lonely elders. Throughout his career, Cash advocated for the outcasts of society, stating that, “until things are brighter, I’m the Man in Black.”

(Express Newspapers/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

4. "A Boy Named Sue"

4. "A Boy Named Sue"
  • Released: 1969
  • Peak Billboard Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 14
     

Based on a poem by Shel Silverstein, the story is about a boy who grew up being bullied for his name, so he vowed to kill the man who named him Sue. He finds his father and promptly gets into a fight with him. His father says he named him Sue to make sure he grew up tough and strong. It’s a funny story that went on to top the Billboard charts!

(Joel Baldwin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

3. "Folsom Prison Blues"

3. "Folsom Prison Blues"
  • Released: 1955
  • Peak Billboard Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 18
     

Named after a prison in California, Folsom Prison Blues is one of Johnny Cash’s most iconic songs. He wrote the hit while stationed in Germany in 1952, imagining what it would be like to be in prison. Cash went on to perform “Folsom Prison Blues” and other songs for prisoners across the country while advocating for prison reform. His most famous prison performance was recorded live in the 1968 album At Folsom Prison.

(Sun Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

2. "I Walk the Line"

2. "I Walk the Line"
  • Released: 1956
  • Peak Billboard Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 42
     

“I Walk the Line,” released in 1956, catapulted Cash into stardom. It’s about Cash wanting to stay faithful to his wife, walking the straight and narrow line of fidelity while he’s away. He walked the line as best he could until he divorced his first wife and married June Carter in 1968. Though the lyrics did not turn out to be true, it remains one of the best Johnny Cash songs ever!

(Image via Sun Records)

1. "Ring of Fire"

1. "Ring of Fire"
  • Released: 1963
  • Peak Billboard Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 32
     

Coming in at #1 is “Ring of Fire!” Written by his future wife June Carter, she wrote the song about falling in love with Cash while he was married to another woman. However, the origin of the story has been contested by Cash’s first wife, with her claiming that the man wrote it while drunk and talking about a “certain female body part.” Others say he’s clearly talking about eating too much spicy food– either way, the song went on to be certified gold, becoming the most popular Johnny Cash song ever!

(CBS Photo Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images)