Ring of Fire (song)
|"Ring of Fire"|
|Single by Johnny Cash|
|from the album Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash|
|B-side||"I'd Still Be There"|
|Released||April 19, 1963|
|Recorded||March 25, 1963|
|Genre||Folk, rock and roll|
|Writer(s)||June Carter, Merle Kilgore|
|Johnny Cash singles chronology|
"Ring of Fire" or "The Ring of Fire" is a country music song popularized by Johnny Cash and co-written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore. The single appears on Cash's 1963 album, Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash. The song was originally recorded by June's sister, Anita Carter, on her Mercury Records album Folk Songs Old and New (1963) as "(Love's) Ring of Fire".
The song was recorded on March 25, 1963, and became the biggest hit of Johnny Cash's career, staying at number one on the charts for seven weeks. It was certified Gold on January 21, 2010 by the R.I.A.A. and has also sold over 1.2 million digital downloads.
From the album Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash. This sample includes a portion of the chorus. Flourishes from the mariachi are also featured.
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Although "Ring of Fire" sounds somewhat ominous, the term refers to falling in love – which is what June Carter was experiencing with Johnny Cash at the time. Some sources claim that Carter had seen the phrase "Love is like a burning ring of fire," underlined in one of her uncle A. P. Carter's Elizabethan books of poetry. She worked with Kilgore on writing a song inspired by this phrase as she had seen her uncle do in the past. She had written: "There is no way to be in that kind of hell, no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns".
Cash's first wife, Vivian Liberto, offers a different conception of "Ring of Fire" in her book I Walked the Line. She contends that June Carter Cash was not a co-writer of the song: "To this day, it confounds me to hear the elaborate details June told of writing that song for Johnny. She didn't write that song any more than I did. The truth is, Johnny wrote that song, while pilled up and drunk, about a certain private female body part. All those years of her claiming she wrote it herself, and she probably never knew what the song was really about." Liberto claims that Cash decided to give Carter co-writer status because "She needs the money".
The song was originally recorded by June's sister, Anita Carter, on her Mercury Records album Folk Songs Old and New (1963) as "(Love's) Ring of Fire". Mercury released Anita's version as a single and it was a featured "pick hit" in Billboard magazine.
After hearing Anita's version, Cash claimed he had a dream where he heard the song accompanied by "Mexican horns". Cash stated, "I'll give you about five or six more months, and if you don't hit with it, I'm gonna record it the way I feel it." Cash noted that adding trumpets was a change to his basic sound.
When the song failed to become a major hit for Anita, Cash recorded it his own way, adding the mariachi-style horns. This sound was later used in the song "It Ain't Me Babe", which was recorded around the same time. Mother Maybelle and the Carter sisters are prominently featured in the Cash recording singing harmony. Cash tinkered with a few of the original phrases in Anita Carter's version of the song.
Johnny Cash version
|U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||17|
|German Singles Chart||27|
|Swiss Singles Chart||77|
Eric Burdon and the Animals version
|Australian Single Chart||10|
|German Singles Chart||24|
|UK Singles Chart||35|
Alan Jackson version
|US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)||45|
|"Ring of Fire"|
|Single by Eric Burdon & the Animals|
|from the album Love Is|
|B-side||I'm an Animal|
|Length||4:58 (album version)|
|Eric Burdon & the Animals singles chronology|
|"Ring of Fire"|
|Single by Social Distortion|
|from the album Social Distortion|
|B-side||Story of My Life|
|Social Distortion singles chronology|
Numerous cover versions of "Ring of Fire" have been produced, the most commercially successful version being by Eric Burdon & the Animals. Their version was recorded at the end of 1968, and made the Top 40 in four different countries. In late 1974, the Eric Burdon Band released a heavier version. In 2006, Burdon performed the song sometimes at his concerts.
Already in 1964 French rock group Les Gam's released a translation in French of the song, entitled "L'anneau de feu". Tom Jones recorded a version for his 1967 album Green, Green Grass of Home, but it was not released as a single.
A cover of the song by Alan Jackson with guest vocals from Lee Ann Womack was released as a single on December 6, 2010. It served as the lead-off single to his 34 Number Ones compilation album, and peaked at #45 in the Country charts, becoming his first single to miss the Country Top 40 since "Just Put a Ribbon in Your Hair" peaked at #51 in 2004. It was his last single released by Arista Records.
In 1976 it was recorded on the album Making A Good Thing Better by Olivia Newton-John.
In 1980, experimental/new wave band Wall of Voodoo recorded a distinctly morbid version, ending with an extended guitar solo layered over a theme that borrows heavily from the repeating incidental music in the "Flint" movies ("In Like Flint", "Our Man Flint"). It appeared on their debut EP, and an edited version (with most of the guitar solo cut) was released as a single and became a minor hit. It can also be heard as background music in the adult film "Night Dreams." Decades after Wall of Voodoo recorded their version, the band's vocalist/keyboardist Stan Ridgway continued to play their arrangement of the song on his solo tours. A new recording eventually appeared on the Stan Ridgway Band's album Live in Seattle 2007: Call of the Northwest.
A deep soul version by James Carr, apparently recorded in the early 1970s surfaced on a couple of CD reissues. This was recorded after the singer left Goldwax Records, possibly during the short time he was signed to Atlantic.
Social Distortion released a punk rock version of the song on their self-titled album in 1990. The single reached number 25 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks. Pop punk band Bowling for Soup would later cover the song on their live album Bowling for Soup: Live and Very Attractive.
In 1997 the Mexican country-band Caballo Dorado recorded a Spanish version called "Rueda de fuego".
Use in media
The song has also been featured in some video games: the original 1963 song was featured in Tony Hawk's Underground 2, while a live version recorded in 1987 appeared in Guitar Hero 5 (which features a virtual avatar of Cash). The Social Distortion cover is a downloadable track for the Rock Band series (with the original song also confirmed for download in Rock Band 3) and is featured in Shaun White Snowboarding.
The song was used in the film Stan Helsing in which the main character Stan sings the song in a Karaoke Bar.
In 1993, Levi jeans used the song in a commercial for 501 jeans.
Ruthie Foster released a cover of this song in her album Let It Burn.
D'Ukes ukulele band performed this song during an episode of Big Brother (UK) during week 7 of series 13. The band also pre-recorded a version of the song which the Big Brother housemates listened to in order to rehearse their dance routines as part of that episode's Gold Rush task.
The song (along with others performed by Cash) was featured prominently in a 2006 episode of the British sitcom The Royle Family, entitled "The Queen of Sheba".
- Grein, Paul (2010-09-24). "Chart Watch Extra: Songs From The Last Century". Nielsen Business Media. Yahoo! Music. Retrieved 2012-03-22.
- "Obituary: Anita Carter". The poem was "Love's Ring Of Fire by Bob Johnston, according to Johnny Cash by Stephen Miller. The (London) Independent. August 4, 1999. Retrieved on March 23, 2007.
- "Google Books Search, Johnny Cash, by Steve Miller".
- "Ring of Fire". RollingStone.com. December 9, 2004. Retrieved on March 23, 2007.
- Vivian Cash; Ann Sharpsteen (4 September 2007). I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny. Simon and Schuster. p. 294. ISBN 978-1-4165-3292-7. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- Johnny Cash interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969).
- "Cash family blocks haemorrhoid ad". BBC.com. February 18, 2004. Retrieved on March 23, 2007.
- The Animals chart entries, tsort.info.
- "Alan Jackson Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Alan Jackson.
- Alan Jackson USA chart history, Billboard.com. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- "FZShows, 1988"
- YouTube - Surge Ring of Fire
- Che, Cathy (1999), 'Deborah Harry: Platinum Blonde', MPG Books Ltd, Cornwall, p.227
"Act Naturally" by Buck Owens
|Billboard Hot Country Singles number-one single
July 27, 1963
"Abilene" by George Hamilton IV