A Boy Named Sue – Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash.. how do I begin? Much like Shakespeare, Cash definitely has a way with taking an original song or poem and enhancing it. Some of you may have heard of the song Hurt, originally done by Nine Inch Nails. One of my favorites! You should all definitely check out both versions (I really prefer the Cash version, no offense.). Another song redone by Cash is A Boy Named Sue, which is originally a poem by Shel Silverstein. The title definitely drew me in, and the song is just plain hilarious. Instantly, I thought about Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20… except the opposite. The man in this poem is portrayed as having a “woman’s gentle heart.” The boy being depicted in this song does not look like a female, however he does have a female’s name, Sue, because his father named him that before he abandoned his family. Unlike the man depicted in Shakespeare’s sonnet, this characteristic does not make him “gentle” in any way whatsoever. On the other hand, because he was named Sue, he was often defending himself in fights. “My fists got hard and my wits got keen” (Cash). Sue spends his life searching for his father, and finally finds him drunk in a bar. The most unladylike part of Sue is the scene depicted with the bar-fight. There is a lot of mud, blood, and beer – so not like the “master-mistress” of the speaker’s “passion” in the sonnet. Much like Shakespeare’s sonnets, the song takes a big twist at the end. The twist in sonnet 20 is rather sexual, while the twist in the song is somewhat enlightening. Listeners learn that the father named his son Sue to protect him. “So I give ya that name and I said goodbye / I knew you’d have to get tough or die / And it’s the name that helped to make you strong” (Cash).  The real twist comes at the last two lines when he says “And if I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him…” (Cash). Obviously, listeners expect him to say Sue, but he says, “Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name” (Cash). 

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