The Man Comes Around * Johnny Cash * American IV * 2002
I’ve never been a religious person, but if anyone is going to get me to think twice about the whole deal, that person is Johnny Cash. Okay not really, but this is an amazing song nevertheless. “The Man Comes Around” is about a traditional, Christian Apocalypse. It is about Revelation. What is revealed, of course, is the new world order led by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, or in this instance, The Man. There is nothing you can do about this, by the way, so you may as well continue living your life. “Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still,” and all that. When the Revelation comes to pass, there will be judgement, so keep that in mind. Probably you will want to be on the same side as The Man. This song is in every way a Christian hymn.
My fondness for this song lies, obviously, with Johnny Cash himself. He’s clearly passionate, even in his advanced age. In fact, the aged timbre of his voice is what makes this song so profound (edging on spooky). The spare production lends an authenticity to the track, as if this music was found in some dusty, post-Apocalyptic attic somewhere by someone left behind. The old-fashioned words used add to the overall feeling of timeless age, which makes sense considering the idea behind the song is a couple thousand years old. There aren’t many other voices that could sing these things without sounding cheesy. Cash makes the Revelation not only sound plausible, but imminent. The ending of the song, a brief spoken verse, is truly haunting.
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts
And I looked and behold, a pale horse
And his name that sat on him was Death
And Hell followed with him