On This Day: Johnny Cash Releases 33rd Album ‘Hello, I’m Johnny Cash’ in 1970

by Clayton Edwards

Country music legend Johnny Cash released his hit album “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” fifty-one years ago today. Not only did the album go to number one on the country album charts but it also contains a Grammy-winning song as well as the first Kris Kristofferson song that Cash covered.

Johnny Cash’s 1971 Grammy Win

At the time this album was released, Johnny Cash was on a winning streak at the Grammys. From 1968-1970 Cash took home at least one Grammy every year. In 1971, he was nominated for and won the Grammy for the best country duo with vocals. The award was for “If I Were a Carpenter.” a duet with June Carter-Cash.

This would be Johnny Cash’s last Grammy award until the late eighties. If you’ve never heard the song, do yourself a favor and check it out. The couple’s voices work beautifully. The sentiment of the song is sweet and shows off their chemistry. It’s definitely worth a listen.

The Kris Kristofferson Connection

The first Kristofferson song that Johnny Cash covered is on this album. “To Beat the Devil” is the name of the song. Kristofferson released a version of the song on his own 1970 album. It is only fitting that Cach covered this song. In fact, Kris dedicated it to Johnny and June on his recording of it.

The song starts with a spoken word intro, “A couple of years back I come across a great and wasted friend of mine in the hallway of a recording studio. And while he was reciting some poetry to me that he had written, I saw that he was about a step away from dying, and I couldn’t help but wonder why. And the lines of this song occurred to me. I’m happy to say he’s no longer wasted, and he’s got him a good woman. And I’d like to dedicate this to John and June, who helped showed me how to beat the devil.”

No matter which version you listen to, it’s a great song. It’s a story about being a starving musician while still holding on to hope for the world. More than that, it’s a song with an important and universal message. If you’ve never heard the song, it’s a great way to kick off your year. Check it out.

Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson were friends and over time their professional relationship grew. Fifteen years after Cash released his version of “To Beat the Devil” he, Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson would come together to form The Highwaymen.