I Walk the Line – Johnny Cash

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time.
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line

I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I’ll admit I’m a fool for you
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line

You’ve got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can’t hide
For you I know I’d even try to turn the tide
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line



“I Walk the Line” is a song written by Johnny Cash and recorded in 1956. A 1970 movie drama of the same name, starring Gregory Peck, featured a soundtrack of Johnny Cash songs including the title song. In 2005, a biographical film entitled Walk the Line was produced starring Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter, directed by James Mangold.

It is based upon the “boom-chicka-boom” or “freight train” rhythm common in many of Cash’s songs. In the original recording of the song, there is a key change between each of the five verses, and Cash hums the new root note before singing each verse. The final verse, a reprise of the first, is sung a full octave lower than the first verse. According to Cash, he loved the sound of a snare drum, but drums were not used on country music back then, so he placed a piece of paper in his guitar strings and created his own unique “snare drum”. From that point onwards, at many concerts, Cash would tell the story and perform the song the same way.

The unique chord progression for the song was inspired by an accidental backwards playback on Cash’s tape recorder while he was in the Air Force. Later, he wrote the lyrics in a backstage dressing room in Gladewater, Texas in 1955, after a discussion with fellow performer Carl Perkins encouraged him to adopt “I Walk the Line” as the song title. Cash originally intended the song as a slow ballad, but producer Sam Phillips preferred a faster arrangement, which Cash grew to like as the uptempo recording met with success.

Once while performing the song on his TV show, Cash told the audience, with a smile, “People ask me why I always hum whenever I sing this song. It’s to get my pitch.” The humming was necessary since the song required Cash to change keys several times while singing it.

The song was originally recorded at Sun Studio on April 2, 1956, and was released on May 1. It spent six weeks at the top spot on the U.S. country charts that summer, and also reached number 19 on the pop music charts.

The song was re-recorded four times during Cash’s career. In 1964 for the I Walk the Line album, again in 1969 for the At San Quentin album, in 1971 for the I Walk the Line soundtrack, and finally in 1988 for the Classic Cash album.

In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked the song at #30 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In 2006 Levi Strauss & Co. commissioned three advertisements using the song. These “Straight Walk” ads were produced by the Bartie Bogle Hegarty advertising agency, and directed by Tom Carty. The covers used in the ads were slow-ballads sung by Megan Wyler and Adem Ilhan.

Cash’s son-in-law, singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell adapted the song into “I Walk the Line (Revisited),” which was recorded as a duet with Cash and relased on Crowell’s 2001 album “The Houston Kid.”

The song is also recorded by the band Live and is featured on their album Awake: The Best of Live.

Indie rock band Murder by Death released the song “Sometimes the Line Walks You” in 2006 as an homage both in name and style to Cash’s work.



1 Comment

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  1. It’s really too bad about Joaquin Phoenix. He was/is a fantastic actor, but he seems to have just got a little loose upstairs.

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