Breedloves's Folk Songs

Folsom Prison Blues

  • “Folsom Prison Blues” is an American country music song written by Johnny Cash in the
    early 1950s and originally recorded with his trio in 1955 for the Sun Records label. The
    song combines elements from two popular folk genres, the train song and the prison song,
    both of which Cash would continue to use for the rest of his career. It has become one of
    Cash’s signature songs.
    In the lyrics, the jailed protagonist listens to the whistle of a train outside his cell and
    recounts his crimes (“I shot a man in Reno/just to watch him die”), imagines the free
    people inside the train (“They’re probably drinking coffee and smoking big cigars”) and
    dreams of what he would do if he were free. “I know I had it coming/I know I can’t be
    free,” sings the imprisoned man. “But those people keep a’moving/and that’s what tortures
    I hear the train a comin’
    It’s rollin’ ’round the bend,
    And I ain’t seen the sunshine,
    Since, I don’t know when,
    I’m stuck in Folsom Prison,
    And time keeps draggin’ on,
    But that train keeps a-rollin’,
    On down to San Antone.
    When I was just a baby,
    My Mama told me, “Son,
    Always be a good boy,
    Don’t ever play with guns,”
    But I shot a man in Reno,
    Just to watch him die,
    When I hear that whistle blowin’,
    I hang my head and cry.
    I bet there’s rich folks eatin’,
    In a fancy dining car,
    They’re probably drinkin’ coffee,
    And smokin’ big cigars,
    But I know I had it comin’,
    I know I can’t be free,
    But those people keep a-movin’,
    And that’s what tortures me.
    Well, if they freed me from this prison,
    If that railroad train was mine,
    I bet I’d move out over a little,
    Farther down the line,


    Far from Folsom Prison,
    That’s where I want to stay,
    And I’d let that lonesome whistle,
    Blow my Blues away

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