Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone


Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Today marks 10 years since Johnny Cash left us so I thought I’d interrupt the regularly scheduled reviews to post a special Attack of the Killer Track! article. There was a certain sense of symmetry in following up a Nine Inch Nails review with a piece about The Man in Black that I couldn’t resist. In the early 90’s Johnny Cash’s popularity was on a downturn, his 1991 album The Mystery of Life only receiving an initial pressing of 500 copies from Mercury Records. This paved the way for the comeback of Johnny Cash with 1994’s Rick Rubin production, American Recordings. Rick Rubin of course was closely associated with the Beastie Boys and Run D.M.C in the mid 80’s (and currently mugging in the new Eminem video). Rubin urged Cash to record in a minimalist setting, which suited the stark material. Rubbing up against material penned by Glenn Danzig, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Cash himself was a Karl Silbersdorf and Dick Toops song that Cash had previously recorded in 1962. The basis of the song was the murder of Delia Green on Christmas Day in 1900. Delia’s Gone was the epitome of “Outlaw Country” – stark, unsettling, with vivid imagery. The story of love gone wrong with a final resolution – this is gangsta rap as filtered through Johnny Cash (which Bono of U2 hinted at in his essay included with the Love, God, Murder box set). Johnny Cash of course also covered U2’s “One”, and THAT video was directed by Anton Corbijn who directed the video for “Delia’s Gone”. The video stars Kate Moss in the role of Delia and it really is a masterpiece of sound & vision. Shake the image of the Johnny Cash who covered Nine Inch Nails “Hurt” towards the end of his life. In its stead, listen to Outlaw Johnny Cash singing these verses:

She was low down and trifling
And she was cold and mean
Kind of evil make me want to grab my sub machine
Delia’s gone, one more round Delia’s gone

First time I shot her I shot her in the side
Hard to watch her suffer
But with the second shot she died
Delia’s gone, one more round Delia’s gone

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