The Man Comes Around

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"The Man Comes Around"
Song by Johnny Cash
from the album American IV: The Man Comes Around
ReleasedMay 24, 2002
Songwriter(s)Johnny Cash

"The Man Comes Around" is the title track from Johnny Cash's American IV: The Man Comes Around, released in 2002. It was written several years prior to the release of the album; however, Cash updated it for the album. It is one of the last songs Cash wrote before his death.[4] Both sung and spoken, the song makes numerous Biblical references, especially to the Book of Revelation.[5]

Symbols and references in the lyrics[edit]

There are numerous biblical references in the lyrics.[5] A spoken portion from Revelation 6:1–2 in the King James Version[6] introduces the song.[7] The passage describes the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, each heralded by one of the "four beasts" first mentioned in Revelation 4:6–9. The musical portion then begins with Cash reciting that "the man" (Jesus Christ) will one day come to pass judgment. The chorus indicates that these events will be accompanied by trumpets (as in Revelation 8, 9, 11), pipers (Rev. 18:22), and "one hundred million angels singing". The voice of the Lord in Revelation is often likened to the sound of a loud trumpet (Revelation 1:10; 4:1; and 8:13). Revelation 5:11 states that John saw that there are millions of angels in Heaven.

The song also alludes to the Parable of the Ten Virgins from the Gospel of Matthew (25:1–13) with the lyrics "The virgins are all trimming their wicks," a reference to the virgins' preparation of the Second Coming of Christ. The phrase, "It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks" cites Acts 26:14, where Paul the Apostle describes meeting Jesus while traveling to Damascus. It is a reference to a Greek proverb where a kicking ox only injures himself by attempting to kick against a goad, intended to represent the futility of resisting the Lord.

Elsewhere, the song mentions the wise men who bow before the Lord's throne, and cast their "golden crowns" at the feet of God. Revelation 4 refers to elders who worship the Lord and "lay their crowns" before Him (Revelation 4:10). "Alpha and Omega" refers to God himself (Rev. 1:8, 11; 21:6, 22:13), but also to the cries of the newborn and the dying. "Whoever is unjust… etc" is a quote from Revelation 22:11.


The arrangement of the song is sparse (although not so much as in some of Cash's later compositions, such as "God's Gonna Cut You Down"); two guitars, piano (played in the bass register), and an electric organ.


Of the album's fifteen tracks, only three were written by Cash, with "The Man Comes Around" the sole song specifically penned for it, and the only song Cash wrote in its entirety.

The song was inspired by a dream Cash had about Queen Elizabeth II in which the Queen compared Cash to "a thorn tree in a whirlwind." Haunted by the dream, Cash became curious if the phrase was a biblical reference and eventually found a similar phrase in the Book of Job.[8]

An alternative "early take" of the song appears on the Unearthed box set (2003) and The Legend of Johnny Cash (2005). The "Legend" version omits the spoken word intro and outro.


The song was listed as the 296th best song of the 2000s by Pitchfork.


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[9] Silver 200,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Wetmore, Kevin J. Jr. (March 22, 2012). Post-9/11 Horror in American Cinema. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 121. ISBN 978-1-4411-0396-3.
  2. ^ Logsdon, Gene (July 20, 2007). The Mother of All Arts: Agrarianism and the Creative Impulse. University Press of Kentucky. p. 291. ISBN 978-0-8131-7254-5.
  3. ^ Dansby, Andrew (August 15, 2002). "Cash Enlists Apple, Henley". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  4. ^ Brinkley, T. (October 15, 2006), "Walking the Line", The New York Times (review), one of his last original compositions
  5. ^ a b In the album's liner notes, Cash states that the song is "based, loosely, on the book of Revelation, with a couple of lines or a chorus, from other biblical sources".
  6. ^ REV 6:1–6:2
  7. ^ Beckett, Colin (September 1, 2003). "Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  8. ^ Kamp, David (October 2004). "American Communion". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  9. ^ "British single certifications – Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved April 11, 2023.
  10. ^ a b c Lewis, J. S. (October 27, 2014). "Movie Music Moment: Dawn of the Dead ("When the Man Comes Around")". Cineflect. Retrieved August 9, 2016.

External links[edit]