Although Johnny Cash was known for his skill as an incredible performer, phenomenal songwriter, and being just an all-around badass, the man could also perfect some covers.
Most notably, his cover of the song “Hurt,” originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails, which just might go down as the greatest cover of all time considering the circumstances of Cash’s life at that point, but that’s a whole ‘nother rabbit hole to go down.
Today, we’re here to talk about another kickass cover that The Man In Black recorded, and it’s his rendition of Soundgarden’s 1992 song, “Rusty Cage.”
He recorded the cover for his iconic American series albums, with this song specifically recorded for American II: Unchained, which dropped back in 1996. The album went on to win the Grammy for best Country Album.
I was digging through the vaults, and found a video of Cash and Marty Stuart playing a stellar live version of the song on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Soundgarden front man, the late great Chris Cornell, recalled the night Cash and Stuart played the song:
“I started to get messages on my answering machine from people telling me how much they liked the lyrics (of Rusty Cage)
We put that song out five years earlier on ‘Badmotorfinger,’ and nobody left me any messages. When you strip it down and Johnny Cash sings, you listen to what he’s saying… it’s a whole different angle.”
Answering machine… remember those? Haha.
Needless to say, it’s a different ballgame when one of the most iconic figures in country music history covers your song.
Cornell even started dedicating the performance to him during a handful of live shows in the late ’90s.