The Essential Johnny Cash (2002 album)

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The Essential Johnny Cash
JC Essential.jpg
Greatest hits album by
ReleasedFebruary 2002
RecordedSeptember 1954 – May 1993 at Sun Studios
GenreCountry, rock and roll, rockabilly, gospel
ProducerSam Phillips
Jack Clement
Don Law
Frank Jones
Bob Johnston
Johnny Cash
Charlie Bragg
Brian Ahern
Earl Ball
Brian Eno
The Edge
Johnny Cash chronology
American III: Solitary Man
The Essential Johnny Cash
At Madison Square Garden
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[1]

The Essential Johnny Cash is a double-compact disc compilation by Johnny Cash released as part of Sony BMG's Essential series. It was compiled to commemorate Cash's 70th birthday. It is not to be confused with the three-CD box set of the same name released by Columbia Records in 1992.

The double album concentrates mainly on Cash's first 15 years as a recording artist with Sun Records and Columbia, contains only eight post-1970 selections, and no selections from Cash's work with Rick Rubin for American Recordings: Cash's final hit single, a cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt", was released ten months later. The album was certified gold and platinum on February 5, 2005 and was certified 3× platinum on March 3, 2016 for sales of 1,500,000 copies by the RIAA.[2][3] It has sold 1,845,400 copies in the US as of October 2019.[4]

Amongst the 36 tracks on the compilation are two songs that feature Cash prominently but never appeared on any of his albums: "Girl from the North Country" from Bob Dylan's 1969 album Nashville Skyline, and "The Wanderer" from U2's 1993 album Zooropa.

As a testimony to Cash's wide sphere of influence on country, rock, and other modern musics and his wide fan base, the liner notes feature testimonials and 70th birthday greetings from a wide array of artists – from friends and collaborators like Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Petty, ex-stepson-in-law Nick Lowe, and wife June Carter Cash, and also from Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Corey Taylor and Shawn Crahan of Slipknot, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, and Henry Rollins.

Track listing[edit]

Disc one
1."Hey Porter"Johnny Cash2:13
2."Cry! Cry! Cry!"Johnny Cash2:23
3."I Walk the Line"Johnny Cash2:43
4."Get Rhythm"Johnny Cash2:13
5."There You Go"Johnny Cash2:17
6."Ballad of a Teenage Queen"Jack Clement2:11
7."Big River"Johnny Cash2:31
8."Guess Things Happen That Way"Jack Clement1:49
9."All Over Again"Johnny Cash2:12
10."Don't Take Your Guns to Town"Johnny Cash3:02
11."Five Feet High and Rising"Johnny Cash1:46
12."The Rebel – Johnny Yuma"Richard Markowitz/Andrew Fenady1:52
13."Tennessee Flat Top Box"Johnny Cash2:58
14."I Still Miss Someone"Johnny Cash/Roy Cash Jr.2:34
15."Ring of Fire"June Carter/Merle Kilgore2:35
16."The Ballad of Ira Hayes"Peter LaFarge4:07
17."Orange Blossom Special"E.T. Rouse3:06
18."Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)" (with The Carter Family)traditional, arranged by Johnny Cash3:51
Disc two
1."It Ain't Me, Babe" (with June Carter Cash)Bob Dylan3:03
2."The One on the Right Is on the Left"Jack Clement2:47
3."Jackson" (with June Carter Cash)Jerry Leiber [as Gaby Rodgers]/Billy Edd Wheeler2:44
4."Folsom Prison Blues" (Live)Johnny Cash2:44
5."Daddy Sang Bass"Carl Perkins2:20
6."Girl from the North Country" (with Bob Dylan; from Dylan's Nashville Skyline)Bob Dylan3:42
7."A Boy Named Sue" (Live)Shel Silverstein3:46
8."If I Were a Carpenter" (with June Carter Cash)Tim Hardin2:59
9."Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down"Kris Kristofferson4:09
10."Flesh and Blood"Johnny Cash2:36
11."Man in Black"Johnny Cash2:52
12."Ragged Old Flag"Johnny Cash3:09
13."One Piece at a Time"Wayne Kemp4:01
14."(Ghost) Riders in the Sky"Stan Jones3:44
15."Song of the Patriot" (with Marty Robbins)Marty Robbins/Shirl Milete3:24
16."Highwayman" (with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson as The Highwaymen)Jimmy Webb3:03
17."The Night Hank Williams Came to Town" (with Waylon Jennings)Bobby Braddock/Charlie Williams3:24
18."The Wanderer" (U2 starring Johnny Cash; from U2's album Zooropa)Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Jr., Adam Clayton4:43
Disc three (3.0 version only)
1."What Do I Care" (album version)Johnny Cash2:09
2."I Got Stripes"Johnny Cash2:05
3."Understand Your Man"Johnny Cash2:44
4."What Is Truth"Johnny Cash2:39
5."Oney"Jerry Chesnut3:06
6."Any Old Wind That Blows"D. Feller2:47
7."A Thing Called Love"Jerry Hubbard2:34
8."Without Love"Nick Lowe2:29


The following people provided testimonials and/or 70th birthday greetings for the CD's liner notes (in this order):

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2002) Peak
Australian Country Albums Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums 16
U.S. Billboard 200 35


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[2] 3× Platinum 1,845,400[4]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ The Essential Johnny Cash at AllMusic
  2. ^ a b "American album certifications – Johnny Cash – The Essential Johnny Cash". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  3. ^ Paul Grein (August 7, 2013). "Week Ending Aug. 4, 2013. Albums: Robin Thicke, Call Katy Perry". Yahoo Chart Watch.
  4. ^ a b Bjorke, Matt (October 9, 2019). "Top Country Catalog Album Sales: October 9, 2019". RoughStock. Retrieved October 15, 2019.