Johnny Bargeld: The German Recordings of Johnny Cash

It is not widely known among casual listeners that Johnny Cash (alongside the Beatles and others) did at one point record some of his songs in German language versions.

Although the boring and overrated bio-pic mentioned that he actually was stationed in Germany and bought his first guitar there (to some stock-third-reich-marschmusik, blaring on the radio!), the film forgot to mention this footnote of his biography.

Thanks to the presence of the American Forces in Germany, country and western music has always been very popular since the Wirtschaftswunder-years and this might be one of the reasons, some producers dragged Cash into the studio, gave him phonetic lyrics and waited for the cash to roll in.

Didn´t happen!

If you are familiar with German you can hear that Cash really struggled with the words and that he was not really into it.
The record buying public heard this and went on to buy the originals. It certainly didn´t help that the writers didn´t even try to translate the songs. Instead they invented new stories which somehow attempted to emulate Cash´s themes.
Of course they messed this up too, by adding lots of cheesy "Schlager"-cliches.

Wo ist zu hause, Mama? (5 ft. high and rising) completely abandons the original story and turns it into a boring song about "Where is home, mama?"

The amazing "I walk the line" becomes Wer kennt den Weg? and it rides the same reactionary theme asking "Who knows the way", back to the homely roots of your past after you couldn´t find what you were looking for in far away places. Yuck!

Despite the questionable quality of these versions, I prefer them to the simulacra of Phoenix/Witherspoon, anyday!

Thanks to the brilliant Bear Family Records all of Cash´s German songs and much more rare and great recordings are available on a number of great CD-Boxsets.

There were also a number of German Cash-covers, which are actually a genre in their own right. Enjoy this bizarre take on "Ring of Fire" by cover- and novelty-king Ralf Bendix.

His Der grosse Trek nach Idaho" (Ring of Fire) tries hard to transform the music into some ersatz "Beat". With his theatrical crooning, the schmalty choir and the hilarious "Yippieh Ho´s" he almost succeeded to create a camp masterpiece.

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