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Ragged Old Flag
Catalog Number
  • KC 32917
  • Columbia
  • Reissue history for Ragged Old Flag:

    1. Reissued on CD by Columbia/Legacy in December 2001 (CK 86261).

    2. Released for download by Columbia.

    "I got so excited writing the songs in this album that you'd think I just started in the music business. It's something I always wanted to do, write an album of all my own songs ... it seemed in the last year or two, these songs started bubbling out of me more than ever and I started putting down everything that came out ... some of them came easy, within a matter of minutes or an hour at the most. But on some of them, I wrung my mind, I bit the pen and I walked the floor and the songs didn't want to come. Bit they finally did, they all came together. So I guess you'd say they are some of my most profound, passing thoughts..." (Johnny Cash, 1974, from the liner notes to "Ragged Old Flag")

    "Ragged Old Flag" was Cash's first album of all-original material, and it is full of familiar concepts such as the struggles of the working man, lives of prisoners and of course a couple of gospel songs. The album contains a few protest-like songs, most noticeable Don't Go Near The Water - a song Cash would re-record for his "Boom Chicka Boom" album - about man's destruction of nature and its immediate consequences, and on Please, Don't Let Me Out a song about the institutionalized prisoner who cannot imagine life outside the prison walls and this pleads not be released. Other songs, like King Of The Hill and Southern Comfort are delivered with humor and sarcasm - no, the mill hand will not make it to the top of the hill until the day they lay him in a grave there, and even though you can rely on no one but yourself, without your wife you won't make it out of bed in the mornings... or the song about the working man who's choking on exhaust fumes everyday while his ex-wife has left for the country to grow pot.

    The title song was a regular part of Cash's concerts for many years, with slight variations in the lyrics - like at the 2002 Americana Music Awards, one of Cash's last public performances outside of the Carter Fold, and probably the last ever live performance of Ragged Old Flag. Here the last verse went:

    "...She was in Korea, Vietnam,

    Desert Storm, Afghanistan,

    She went where she was sent

    By her Uncle Sam,

    On second thought,

    I do like to brag,

    'cause I'm mighty proud,

    Of that ragged old flag..."


    Johnny Cash at the American Music Awards, reciting his Ragged Old Flag in late September 2002.

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