On This Day: Johnny Cash Performs at the White House for President Richard Nixon in 1970

by Katie Maloney
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Fifty-one years ago today, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash visited and performed for 250 guests at an “Evening at the White House.”

President Richard Nixon and First Lady Patricia Nixon made a lot of changes to the White House while they were there. They installed an outdoor lighting system so that people could see the White House in all its glory at night. And turned the indoor swimming pool into the modern-day White House Press Room. Additionally, they revamped the White House entertainment scene and hosted performers including Duke Ellington, Red Skelton, Frank Sinatra, Merle Haggard, and of course, Johnny and June Carter Cash.

The Cash’s took the stage at the White House on April 17, 1970. They performed 12 songs including “A Boy Named Sue, “Five Feet High and Rising,” “What Is Truth,” Jesus Was a Carpenter,” and “He Turned the Water into Wine.” Towards the end of the concert, Johnny Cash said, “We pray, Mr. President, that you can end this war in Vietnam sooner than you hope or think it can be done, and we hope and pray that our boys will be back home and there will soon be peace in our mountains and valleys.”

Johnny Cash Wrote ‘Ragged Old Flag’ About President Richard Nixon

As mentioned above with his concert closing statement, Johnny Cash was never afraid to let people know where he stood politically. And his 1974 song, “Ragged Old Flag,” proved just that. Just a few years after his appearance at the White House, Cash released “Ragged Old Flag” in response to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The song is about the essence of American values thriving despite enduring years of war and government corruption. Through the song, Cash demonstrated that he believed America would pull through the tumultuous time. During the song, Cash sings, “And I believe she can take a whole lot more. So, we raise her up every morning. We take her down every night. We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right. On second thought, I do like to brag, because I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag.”

“Ragged Old Flag” quickly became a fan favorite. Johnny Cash often introduced the song by saying, “I thank God for all the freedom we have in this country. I cherish them and treasure them – even the right to burn the flag. We also got the right to bear arms, and if you burn my flag- I’ll shoot you.”

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