At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash (1968)


“I hear the train a comin’ rollin’ round the bend
I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when
Well I’m stuck in Folsom Prison and time keeps dragging on
While a train keeps a rollin’ on down to San Antone”

Theodore Parker said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  This might well have been written to describe the life and artistic career of Johnny Cash who was certainly a man of paradoxes.  He built and cultivated an outlaw persona, but his compassion for the oppressed belied his sneer.  He eventually became known as “The Man in Black”, and his song by the same title spoke of his heart for the poor and the hungry, the prisoners, the recovering addicts, and the overlooked and neglected.  It was this compass that led him to Folsom Prison with a small group of musicians in 1968.

As Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

As Cash and his backing group arrived at Folsom, there was an almost funereal feeling among them as they heard the iron gates clank shut behind them. No one knew exactly what to expect, and they had been warned that the prison could not guarantee their safety.

Despite some initial technical problems with the sound system, the concert kicked off energetically with Carl Perkins and The Statler Brothers before Johnny Cash finally introduced himself, receiving a roar of approval as he jump-started his classic “Folsom Prison Blues” with a fast and fiery performance. He then sang almost every song he knew about crime and imprisonment. Highlights included a recklessly energetic version of “Cocaine Blues,” a tongue-in-cheek song about the anticipation of a hanging, “25 Minutes to Go,” and the sentimental ballad “Send a Picture of Mother.” June Carter (who would soon become Cash’s wife) then joined him on stage for a stomping, steaming rendition of their famous duet “Jackson.” The audience embraced Cash with all their raucous energy, sensing that here was a man who understood them.

How does genuineness come through in art?

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

(born J. R. Cash; February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003) was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and author. He is widely considered one of the most influential popular musicians of the 20th century and is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide. Although primarily remembered as a country music icon, his genre-spanning songs and sound embraced rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel. This crossover appeal won Cash the rare honor of multiple inductions in the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.
Cash was known for his deep, calm bass-baritone voice, the distinctive sound of his Tennessee Three backing band, which is characterized by train-sound guitar rhythms; a rebelliousness coupled with an increasingly somber and humble demeanor, free prison concerts, and a trademark, all-black stage wardrobe, which earned him the nickname “The Man in Black.” He traditionally began his concerts by simply introducing himself, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” followed by his signature song “Folsom Prison Blues”.

Sources & Resources


Cash, Johnny. Man in Black. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975.

Hilburn, Robert. Johnny Cash: The Life. New York: Little, Brown, 2013.

Rather, Dan. The Gospel Music of Johnny Cash. DVD. Nashville: Spring House, 2007.

Streissguth, Michael. Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: The Making of a Masterpiece. San Francisco: Da Capo, 2004.

Urbanski, Dave. The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash. Lake Mary, FL: Relevant Books, 2003.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).


Terry Glaspey

Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!


Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at


Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.

Published by

Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life