Johnny Cash was many things. Most people remember him as an outlaw country legend. He was a Highwayman. At the same time, he played in prisons around the country. He earned that title by how he lived, the songs he wrote, and the company he kept. However, there was more to Cash than that. He was also a poet. After all, he wrote many of his own songs. So, he had to have that talent tucked away. Johnny Cash was also a patriot. He loved his country and his fellow Americans.
If you need an example of Johnny Cash’s patriotism, look no further than the title track from his 1974 album Ragged Old Flag. The album reached the top-20. The title track, which was the only single from the record, reached the top 40. At the same time, it got a lukewarm reception from critics. However, his audience loved it. Even today, over four decades after his release, the song holds up.
“Ragged Old Flag” still belongs at the top of any patriotic playlist. During the spoken-word piece, Johnny Cash describes the importance of the flag over soft and somber music. However, he doesn’t just list facts. He frames his love letter to Old Glory in a narrative.
In “Ragged Old Flag,” Johnny Cash talks about walking through a small town with a rundown courthouse and a ragged old flag hanging from a tilted pole. Then, an old man sitting on a park bench tells him how much that old flag has been through and why he’s proud of it. The story of the flag in the piece is the story of America and her military over the years.
Watch This Veteran Recite Johnny Cash’s Ode to America, ‘Ragged Old Flag’
Earlier today, the Johnny Cash estate posted a video of the late Paul Gottfried, a veteran, and member of the American Legion in Johnstown, Ohio reciting, “Ragged Old Flag.” In the post, they point out that Mr. Gottfried recited the piece hundreds of times over the years. Check out the moving video below:
In this video, the late Paul Gottfried, veteran and member of the American Legion in Johnstown, OH, recites the Ragged Old Flag, by Johnny Cash. Gottfried performed this hundreds of times for children during ceremonies over the years.— Johnny Cash (@JohnnyCash) July 6, 2021
📹: Matt Bransonhttps://t.co/ycO0D7J2EO pic.twitter.com/Y3zgpimNia
Mr. Gottfried starts by saying, “I’m honored today to talk to you about our flag. I would like to start off by reciting ‘Ragged Old Flag,’ written by Johnny Cash in 1969.” He goes on to say that the piece is a reminder of the history that our flag has been through over the course of the country’s history.
The video is only one minute long. However, hearing the late veteran begin to recite Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag,” is truly moving.