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|
|Johnny Cash singles chronology|
|"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|
|"Ring of Fire"|
|Single by DragonForce|
|from the album Maximum Overload|
|Released||18 August 2014|
|DragonForce singles chronology|
"Ring of Fire", or "The Ring of Fire", is a song written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore and recorded by The Carter Family in 1962 and by Johnny Cash in 1963. 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". "Ring of Fire" was ranked No. 4 on CMT's 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music in 2003 and #87 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In June 2014, Rolling Stone ranked the song #27 on its list of the 100 greatest country songs of all time.
The song was recorded on March 25, 1963, and became one of the biggest hits of Cash's career, staying at number one on the country chart for seven weeks. It was certified Gold on January 21, 2010, by the RIAA and has also sold over 1.2 million digital downloads.
Although "Ring of Fire" sounds 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, offered a different conception of "Ring of Fire" in her book I Walked the Line. She contended 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 claimed 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 from his dream. 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.
In 2004, Merle Kilgore, who shared writing credit for the song with June Carter Cash, proposed licensing the song for a hemorrhoid cream commercial. When performing the song live, Kilgore would often "mock dedicate" the song to "The makers of Preparation H". However, June's heirs were not of a like mind, and they refused to allow the song to be licensed for the ad.
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|
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 hard rock version. Wall of Voodoo debuted with a cover of the song on their self-titled 1980 EP and featured a pulsing synthesizer. Dwight Yoakam covered it on his debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. Punk rock band Social Distortion covered it on their 1990 self-titled LP. In 1991, Frank Zappa released a reggae-style live version on the album The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life, after claiming to have met Johnny Cash in the elevator before the show and inviting him to perform the song with his band that night. Cash did not follow through on the invite, but the band played the song anyway. 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 Hot Country Songs, becoming his first single to miss the top 40 since "Just Put a Ribbon in Your Hair" peaked at #51 in 2004. It was his last single released by Arista Records.
Cash's version of "Ring Of Fire" was never released as a single in the United Kingdom. However, in 1993 / 1994, the song gained significant radio airplay in the UK after it was used in a popular television commercial for Levi Jeans (entitled 'Campfire').
Other cover versions
In 2018, Kevin O'Rielly (more popularly known as the Irish Youtuber Call Me Kevin) released a video called "I made you a song" which included him making a cover of the song while playing a guitar.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash". AllMusic. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
- Stone, Rolling; Stone, Rolling (1 June 2014). "100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time".
- Grein, Paul (2010-09-24). "Chart Watch Extra: Songs From The Last Century". Nielsen Business Media. Yahoo! Music. Archived from the original on 2010-10-05. 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.
- "Cash Family Draws Line Around 'Ring of Fire'". Fox News. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944–2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 75.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: Eighth Edition. Record Research. p. 111.
- The Animals chart entries, tsort.info.
- "Alan Jackson Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
- Alan Jackson USA chart history, Billboard.com. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- ""Nightdreams": Filmmaker Rinse Dream's visionary and surreal first foray into the world of X-rated adult films".