Do you like Johnny Cash?
If not, I personally don’t think you should be allowed to be a guitarist. Johnny Cash represents a lot of things to a lot of different people, and his life, as controversial as it was in many respects, has had a huge impact on the course of music in the last few decades.
His musical style is so distinct: not quite rock, not quite country, not quite bluegrass, and not quite blues, that it deserves to live on for centuries.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Cash’ music, and love playing it at gigs. Regardless of what you think of the man himself, there’s no denying that many of his songs are well known and can be tailored to almost any occasion, from a solo coffee shop open mic night to a grand stand backed up by a full band.
Here are my two favorites:
I Walk The Line
Of course I Walk The Line is at the top of the list.
This is hands down one of the best songs Johnny Cash ever wrote, and is virtually synonymous with his name. The song has a guttural, pseudo-country style, and captured the thoughts and feelings of an entire generation.
Despite that, it’s actually not that difficult to play, as long as you make a few alterations to the way it’s performed in the original recording.
I recommend most guitarists keep the original chord progression, but alter the melodic lines and interludes to fit their own abilities.
You Are My Sunshine
The other epic song you need to know is You Are My Sunshine.
Interestingly, this song became so famous and is played in so many different variations and arrangements, that many people don’t know it’s originally by Johnny Cash.
Like I Walk The Line, it’s surprisingly simple to play, and you can play it just about anywhere. Most people know the song, and many love it (as long as it’s played well). I’ve even played it for church gigs and weddings!