LISTEN: Johnny Cash Sings ‘Ring of Fire’ Without Instruments in Stripped Down Track

by Emily Morgan

The horns in “Ring of Fire” are a critical piece of Johnny Cash’s iconic song. Listeners can imagine it probably sounds quite different if someone were to remove them from the record.

If you’ve ever been curious about what “Ring of Fire” sounds like once you remove the horns, look no further.

In 2014, a clip shared on Youtube surfaced showing Cash’s voice isolated on the track for “Ring of Fire.” As you can imagine, the audio has an eerie element to it, which makes sense since the clip features prolonged periods of silence.

After a few ghostly moments, Johnny Cash’s voice emerges, creating a moment unlike any other. In the clip, his vocals are much more haunting compared to the original recording. It’s impossible not to find the hairs on the back of your neck standing up as you listen to the rendition.

Johnny Cash Trades Trumpets for Lone Vocals in “Ring of Fire” Rendition

The term “Ring of Fire” has been synonymous with Johnny Cash since he released the track in 1963. Out of Cash’s entire body of work, no other song depicts Johnny Cash’s gravely, beautifully melancholy sound in the way that way “Ring of Fire” does.

From the opening trumpet mariachi melody to Johnny Cash’s gruff vocals, every aspect of the song is uncommonly iconic. Cash’s vocals paired with the instrumentals were the perfect combination to give the man in black the chart-topping hit.

“Ring of Fire” was written by Merle Kilgore and Cash’s songstress wife, June Carter Cash. It quickly became a number one country hit as well as a crossover success. Soon, fans were associating “Ring of Fire” to represent Johnny Cash’s quintessential sound.

Fans may not know that June Carter’s sister, Anita, was the first to record the hit. Once he heard Anita’s rendition, Cash decided to record a version himself.

While crafting the song, Cash described he had a dream wherein he heard “Ring of Fire” along with the sound of a mariachi band. When he got in the recording booth, Cash made his dreams a reality and added the Mexican-style horns to his recording.

Trading the mariachi sound for solo vocals was a massive leap for Cash, but it paid off in the long run.

Even after his passing almost 18 years ago, fans are still finding new ways to be amazed by the singer. While this stripped-down version is quite a drastic change from the original, it highlights just how talented Cash was. Removing the instrumentals proved that Cash could successfully carry the song without assistance, which is a rarity for many artists today.