On This Day: Johnny Cash Releases ‘Guess Things Happen That Way’ in 1958

by Madison Miller

For “The Man in Black,” releasing popular hits was just the way things happened throughout his entire career. On May 19, 1958, Johnny Cash released his song “Guess Things Happen That Way.”

The song was written by Jack Clement. He had written a number of Cash’s songs over the years, including “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” and “The One on the Right Is on the Left.” He also produced and came up with the horn intro for one of Cash’s most popular tunes, “Ring of Fire.”

“Guess Things Happen That Way” went No. 1 on the country chart and spent eight weeks there as well. The song was on the charts for a total of 24 weeks and was Johnny Cash’s fourth No. 1 hit of his career.

The song is a crossover single by Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. This is the famous backing band of Cash for over 25 years that helped create the unique instrumental sound of the artist. On the B-side of the record was “Come in Stranger.” “Guess Things Happen That Way” appears on the album “Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous” as well.

The hit song is about a man who is struggling to find meaning and purpose in his life after the love of his life is gone. “You ask me if I’ll forget my baby/I guess I will, someday/I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way,” Cash sings in the song. He is accompanied by powerful background vocals for this emotional song.

Recording and Censorship of Johnny Cash Song

Fans of Clint Eastwood films may recognize the song in the film “A Perfect World” from 1993. It is also on the soundtrack for the film.

Cash released the song while he was still starting out. He had released “Folsom Prison Blues” the year before with Sun Studios and Sam Phillips. He had become the first artist to release a long-playing album with Sun Studios. Johnny Cash eventually left the small label because of certain restraints placed on him. He was unable to record gospel music and was receiving less royalty money than other labels offered. Cash instead would sign with Columbia Records in 1958.

According to Telegraph, “Guess Things Happen That Way” was actually banned by BBC at the time of its release. Apparently, the head of religious broadcasting objected to having this Cash tune play on the radio. Lyrics like “God gave me that girl to lean on / Then he put me on my own / Heaven help me be a man / And have the strength to stand alone” were considered controversial.

It wasn’t the first time Cash’s music faced some censorship, either. According to Rare Country, his song “A Boy Named Sue” was also censored. It had the term “son of a b–ch,” and the word “d–n” was also removed for the album version. Meanwhile, the song earned him a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Male Performance in 1970.