Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Folsom Prison Blues

I have a deep appreciation of Johnny Cash and his music. It's not that I love country, or that signature " boom-chicka-boom" drum beat. But what I love is how his music speaks to the reality of life. Cash doesn't sing about idealistic pleasantries- he sings about the struggles of grief, love, rebellion and death. I believe the song "Folsom Prison Blues," is the characteristic Cash song. It's the title track of his album recorded live from within an actual prison. Here are the lyrics...

I hear the train a comin'
It's rolling round the bend
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when,
I'm stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin' on
But that train keeps a rollin' on down to San Antone..
When I was just a baby my mama told me. Son,
Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry..

I bet there's rich folks eating in a fancy dining car
They're probably drinkin' coffee and smoking big cigars.
Well I know I had it coming, I know I can't be free
But those people keep a movin'
And that's what tortures me...

Well if they freed me from this prison,
If that railroad train was mine
I bet I'd move it on a little farther down the line
Far from Folsom prison, that's where I want to stay
And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away.....

Folsom Prison Blues is a song about a man longing for freedom, for a chance to ride the train away from the troubles of his life. The tragedy of the song is that the man singing isn't free and it tortures him.

This is the plight of being human. We wish we could be free from the despair of life. We wish we could transcend the difficulties and stress of our inability to be who we want to be. Or as St. Paul says "For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing...Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

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