“Man in Black” (or “The Man in Black”) is a protest song written and recorded by singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, originally released on his 1971 album of the same name. Cash himself was known as “The Man in Black” for his distinctive style of on-stage costuming.
The lyrics are an after-the-fact explanation of this with the entire song as a protest statement against the treatment of poor people by wealthy politicians, mass incarceration, and the war in Vietnam. In the intro to his first performance of the song, Johnny Cash revealed he had talked to some of the audience members from Vanderbilt University that weekend, and was inspired to write “Man in Black,” revising it a few times before the concert on Wednesday. At the end of the song he received a standing ovation.
Johnny Cash February 1971
Marc Almond 1988
Weird Feeling Number Three 1998
J.C.P. feat. Gordon Griffin March 10, 2006
Debauchery August 2, 2013
The Cashbags August 1, 2015
Johnny Horsepower January 2017
Johnny Cash – Man In Black lyrics
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.
I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.
Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.
I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.
And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen’ that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen’ that we all were on their side.
Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin’ everywhere you go,
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.
Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything’s OK,
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.