Samuel Hayim Brody
With a Bible and a Gun, p. 4

"The Man Comes Around" in particular is a brilliantly written and structured thunderbolt of Christian revelation - the Apocalypse of John brought to thundering life by a man who might have known that he would soon meet his maker. For non-Christians the song still works as prophetic injunction; although Cash could not have meant it this way, "the Man" in the song could just as well be him. Post-medieval Jewish thinking on the Messiah's arrival taking the form of an age rather than an agent has to be stretched and read into this achingly literal song - but that's part of the point; Cash is delivering the common man's theology:

Whoever is unjust
Let him be unjust still
Whoever is righteous
Let him be righteous still
Listen to the words long written down
When the man comes around.

In this song, there's no optimism, no ray of light, and the salvation that comes from above is apocalyptic -- well-suited, it seems, to our own desperate political moment:

Til' Armageddon, no Salaam, no Shalom
The father hen will call his chickens home
The wise men will bow down before the throne
And at his feet they'll cast their golden crowns
When the man comes around.

Johnny Cash died on September 12th, 2003, just four months after his wife. I wore black.

[1]       [2]       [3]       4

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