The Essential Johnny Cash (2002 album)

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The Essential Johnny Cash
JC Essential.jpg
Greatest hits album by Johnny Cash
Released February 2002
Recorded September 1954–May 1993 at Sun's Studios
Genre Country, rock and roll, rockabilly, gospel
Length 1:43:53
Label Legacy/Columbia
Producer Sam Phillips
Jack Clement
Don Law
Frank Jones
Bob Johnston
Johnny Cash
Charlie Bragg
Brian Ahern
Earl Ball
Brian Eno
The Edge
Johnny Cash chronology
American III: Solitary Man
(2000)American III: Solitary Man2000
The Essential Johnny Cash
At Madison Square Garden
(2002)At Madison Square Garden2002
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars link

The Essential Johnny Cash is a double-compact disc compilation by Johnny Cash released as part of Sony BMG's Essential series. It was compiled to commemorate Cash's 70th birthday. It is not to be confused with the three-CD box set of the same name released by Columbia Records in 1992.

The double album concentrates mainly on Cash's first 15 years as a recording artist with Sun Records and Columbia, contains only eight post-1970 selections, and no selections from Cash's work with Rick Rubin for American Recordings: Cash's final hit single, a cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt", was released ten months later. The album was certified Gold and Platinum on February 5, 2005 and was certified 2 & 3 x Platinum on March 3, 2016 for sales of 1,500,000 copies by the RIAA.[1][2] It has sold 1,724,200 copies in the US as of April 2017.[3]

Amongst the 36 tracks on the compilation are two songs that feature Cash prominently but never appeared on any of his albums: "Girl from the North Country" from Bob Dylan's 1969 album Nashville Skyline, and "The Wanderer" from U2's 1993 album Zooropa.

As a testimony to Cash's wide sphere of influence on country, rock, and other modern musics and his wide fan base, the liner notes feature testimonials and 70th birthday greetings from a wide array of artists - not only from friends and fellow travelers and collaborators like Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Petty, ex-stepson-in-law Nick Lowe, and wife June Carter Cash, but from the likes of Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Corey Taylor and Shawn Crahan of Slipknot, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, and Henry Rollins.

Track listing[edit]

Disc one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Hey Porter" Johnny Cash 2:13
2. "Cry! Cry! Cry!" Johnny Cash 2:23
3. "I Walk the Line" Johnny Cash 2:43
4. "Get Rhythm" Johnny Cash 2:13
5. "There You Go" Johnny Cash 2:17
6. "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" Jack Clement 2:11
7. "Big River" Johnny Cash 2:31
8. "Guess Things Happen That Way" Jack Clement 1:49
9. "All Over Again" Johnny Cash 2:12
10. "Don't Take Your Guns to Town" Johnny Cash 3:02
11. "Five Feet High and Rising" Johnny Cash 1:46
12. "The Rebel - Johnny Yuma" Richard Markowitz/Andrew Fenady 1:52
13. "Tennessee Flat Top Box" Johnny Cash 2:58
14. "I Still Miss Someone" Johnny Cash/Roy Cash Jr. 2:34
15. "Ring of Fire" June Carter/Merle Kilgore 2:35
16. "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" Peter LaFarge 4:07
17. "Orange Blossom Special" E.T. Rouse 3:06
18. "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)" (with The Carter Family) traditional, arranged by Johnny Cash 3:51
Disc two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "It Ain't Me, Babe" (with June Carter Cash) Bob Dylan 3:03
2. "The One on the Right Is on the Left" Jack Clement 2:47
3. "Jackson" (with June Carter Cash) Jerry Leiber [as Gaby Rodgers]/Billy Edd Wheeler 2:44
4. "Folsom Prison Blues" (Live) Johnny Cash 2:44
5. "Daddy Sang Bass" Carl Perkins 2:20
6. "Girl from the North Country" (with Bob Dylan; from Dylan's Nashville Skyline) Bob Dylan 3:42
7. "A Boy Named Sue" (Live) Shel Silverstein 3:46
8. "If I Were a Carpenter" (with June Carter Cash) Tim Hardin 2:59
9. "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" Kris Kristofferson 4:09
10. "Flesh and Blood" Johnny Cash 2:36
11. "Man in Black" Johnny Cash 2:52
12. "Ragged Old Flag" Johnny Cash 3:09
13. "One Piece at a Time" Wayne Kemp 4:01
14. "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky" Stan Jones 3:44
15. "Song of the Patriot" (with Marty Robbins) Marty Robbins/Shirl Milete 3:24
16. "Highwayman" (with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson as The Highwaymen) Jimmy Webb 3:03
17. "The Night Hank Williams Came to Town" (with Waylon Jennings) Bobby Braddock/Charlie Williams 3:24
18. "The Wanderer" (U2 starring Johnny Cash; from U2's album Zooropa) Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Jr., Adam Clayton 4:43
Disc three (3.0 version only)
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "What Do I Care [Album Version]" Johnny Cash 2:09
2. "I Got Stripes" Johnny Cash 2:05
3. "Understand Your Man" Johnny Cash 2:44
4. "What Is Truth" Johnny Cash 2:39
5. "Oney" Jerry Chesnut 3:06
6. "Any Old Wind That Blows" D. Feller 2:47
7. "A Thing Called Love" Jerry Hubbard 2:34
8. "Without Love" Nick Lowe 2:29


The following people provided testimonials and/or 70th birthday greetings for the CD's liner notes (in this order):

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2002) Peak
Australian Country Albums Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums 16
U.S. Billboard 200 35


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[1] 3× Platinum 1,724,200[3]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b "American album certifications – Johnny Cash – The Essential Johnny Cash". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  2. ^ Paul Grein (August 7, 2013). "Week Ending Aug. 4, 2013. Albums: Robin Thicke, Call Katy Perry". Yahoo Chart Watch. 
  3. ^ a b Bjorke, Matt (April 18, 2017). "Top Country Catalog Album Sales Chart: April 18, 2017". Roughstock.