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The Poetics of American Song Lyrics$
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Charlotte Pence

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781617031564

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617031564.001.0001

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Not to Oppose Evil: Johnny Cash’s Bad Luck Wind

Not to Oppose Evil: Johnny Cash’s Bad Luck Wind

(p.261) Not to Oppose Evil: Johnny Cash’s Bad Luck Wind
The Poetics of American Song Lyrics

Tony Tost

University Press of Mississippi

“A Boy Named Sue,” a song composed by Shel Silverstein and performed by Johnny Cash, is about a boy’s displeasure for growing up as a kind of comic legend because he has a woman’s name, for which he has faced a life of mockery and abuse. It is some sort of a fable: a boy raised by a name and not by a father. The strange resonance of “A Boy Named Sue” had to be among the precedents informing “Thirteen,” another Cash song about a man born without any name at all. Written by Glenn Danzig , it is a composition that toys with the fault line separating tragedy and farce. One of the song’s lines is “Bad luck wind blowing at my back.” This chapter examines the lyrics of “Thirteen” and how the song embraces Cash’s “Man in Black” persona, as well as how his rendering evokes the complexities involving his own mythology.

Keywords:   farce, Boy Named Sue, Shel Silverstein, Johnny Cash, Thirteen, Glenn Danzig, tragedy, Man in Black, mythology, lyrics

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