Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian

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"Bitter Tears" redirects here. For other uses, see Bitter Tears (disambiguation).
Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian
Studio album by Johnny Cash
Released October 1, 1964
Recorded March 5, 1964 – June 30, 1964
Length 31:13
Label Columbia
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Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian
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Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian is a concept album and twentieth album released by singer Johnny Cash in 1964 on Columbia Records. It is one of several Americana records by Cash; as its title implies, the tracks on the album focus exclusively on the history of and problems facing Native Americans in the United States. Cash had been convinced that his ancestry included members of the Cherokee tribe, and this partly served as inspiration for recording Bitter Tears, but later on as he began researching his ancestry, he actually had no Cherokee ancestry, but Scottish, English, and Scots-Irish ancestry. Throughout the album, Cash concentrates on the harsh and unfair treatment of the indigenous peoples of North America. The album was included on the Bear Family Records box set Come Along and Ride This Train.

The songs were written in part by Cash himself and in part by Peter La Farge, with the final track credited to Cash and Johnny Horton. The first song, "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow", by La Farge, concerns the contemporary loss of Seneca nation land in Pennsylvania due to the construction of the Kinzua Dam in the early 1960s. The one single from Bitter Tears that was released was "The Ballad of Ira Hayes", which reached No. 3 on the Country charts; the song tells the story of Ira Hayes, a young Marine of Pima descent who participated in the flag raising on Iwo Jima and became an instant celebrity, only to die drunk and in poverty on the Gila River Reservation where he was born. Both compositions, which outside the choruses are performed in spoken word, tell the story of how the U.S. Government broke treaties with the Native Americans by constructing a dam to divert water from the Pima.

Cash rerecorded "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow" decades later and released it on Unearthed with the lyrics altered to describe his relationship with and devotion to June Carter Cash; the track itself was a duet with the latter, making what ended up being one of her final recorded duets with her husband. In 2014 a tribute album Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited was released with contributions by Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, Emmylou Harris, Bill Miller and others.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow"   Peter La Farge 6:10
2. "Apache Tears"   Cash 2:34
3. "Custer"   La Farge 2:20
4. "The Talking Leaves"   Cash 3:55
5. "The Ballad of Ira Hayes"   La Farge 4:07
6. "Drums"   La Farge 5:04
7. "White Girl"   La Farge 3:01
8. "The Vanishing Race"   Cash, Johnny Horton 4:02
Total length: 31:13


Additional Personnel[edit]

  • Produced by: Don Law and Frank Jones
  • Cover Photo: Bob Cato
  • Reissue Producer: Bob Irwin
  • Digitally Mastered by: Vic Anesini, Sony Music Studios, NY (CD Reissue)
  • Liner Notes: Hugh Cherry


Album - Billboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
1964 Country Albums 2
1964 Pop Albums 47

Singles - Billboard (North America)

Year Single Chart Position
1964 "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" Country Singles 3

External links[edit]