Johnny Cash

A Boy Named Sue

Composed by Shel Silverstein

Song Review by

Although one of Johnny Cash’s most popular songs, and one of his biggest chart hits in the UK, “A Boy Named Sue” is a rather embarrassing “novelty” song from a singer whose best work is some of the finest American music ever made. Working on the premise that a father called his son Sue as a joke, Cash pens a witty but rather annoyingly cloy story about the trials and tribulations of this boy named Sue. Eventually, the doomed narrator of the song is full of hatred for his father, and is thus the only hint of emotion in the song, when Sue finally destroys his father. The song’s melody is catchy, and it’s perhaps easy to see why it was so popular, but as an artistic statement it has little value – it shows that Cash is a versatile artist, but there’s little else to commend about the song.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Johnny Cash at San Quentin 1969 BMG / BMG / Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment
No Image 1971 Col / Sony BMG
No Image 1972 CBS Records
This Is Johnny Cash 1973 Special Music
At Folsom Prison and San Quentin 1976 Sony Music Distribution 3:53
20 Foot-Tappin' Greats 1978 Sony Music Distribution
No Image 1979 CBS Records
No Image 1981 CBS Records
Biggest Hits 1984 CBS Records
No Image 1987 CBS Records
No Image 1988 Masterpiece
Country U.S.A.: 1969 1989
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
I Walk the Line 1990 Payless 3:29
Giant Hits [CBS] 1990 CBS Select
The Man in Black: 1959-1962 1991 Columbia / Sony Music 3:46
The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 1992 Sony Music Distribution 3:46
Hits [1993] 1993 Sony Music Distribution 3:42
The Man in Black: Definitive Collection 1994 Concept 3:47
Super Hits 1994 Sony Music Distribution / Sbme Special Mkts. / Song BMG Music Entertainment 3:47
Kooky Kountry 1994
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:42
48 No. 1 Country Hits 1995
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
Johnny Cash Live 1997 Lasel / Laserlight 3:34
The Rebel 1997 Ariola Express
Good Time Country 1997
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:48
Best of Country & Western, Vol. 3 1997
Various Artists
Stick
Crazy Country 1998 Sony Music Distribution 3:48
Mega Country, Vol. 2 1998
Various Artists
Pmf
Ring of Fire 1998 Country Stars
Wacky Favorites: Crazy Hits 1998
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:45
American Pie: Great Tales & Sagas in Song 1998
Various Artists
Reader's Digest Music 3:45
16 Biggest Hits 1999 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Legacy 3:44
Man in Black: His Greatest Hits 1999 Sony Music Distribution 3:45
No Image 1999 Hallmark Recordings
Classic Country: 1969-1975 1999
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:46
Best of Johnny Cash [Castle] 2000 Castle Pulse
Johnny Cash [Valmark] 2000 Valmark 3:39
Classic Country: 1965-1969 [2 CD 2000] 2000
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
Simply the Best 2001 Sony Music Distribution
Country Mix Series: Country Greats 2001
Various Artists
Goldies 3:35
Famous Country Music Makers 2001
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd.
Greatest Hits: Best of the Best Gold 2001 Columbia 3:46
Once Upon a Song 2001
Various Artists
Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:45
Greatest Hits [Umbrella DVD] 2001 Umbrella
Classic Country: Great Story Songs 2002
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:47
Wanted Man: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 2002 Sony Music Distribution 3:44
The Essential Johnny Cash 2002 Columbia
Back in the Saddle 2002
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 3:37
Johnny Cash Sings His Best [Double Disc] 2002 Teevee Records 3:42
Country Legends [Columbia River] 2002
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:47
At Madison Square Garden 2002 Sony Music Distribution 4:25
A Boy Named Johnny 2002 Musicbank 3:39
Legends [EMI] 2003
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:37
Top Hits of the Sixties: Chart Toppers 2003
Various Artists
Collectables 3:45
Country Complete 2003
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
A Concert Behind Prison Walls 2003 Eagle Vision
I Walk the Line [Weton] 2003 Forever Gold / Weton 3:40
The Original: Best of Johnny Cash 2003 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:48
On Your Radio [Box] 2003
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:47
Goin' Country [Razor & Tie] 2003
Various Artists
Razor & Tie
Sings His Best 2004 Teevee Records 3:42
54 Great Performances 2004 Platinum Entertainment 3:34
Nashville Honky Tonk 2004
Various Artists
Northquest 3:36
Ring of Fire [Laserlight] 2004 Laserlight 3:33
Country Outlaws [2004 Columbia River] 2004
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 3:35
UK Music Hall of Fame 2004
Various Artists
Universal International 3:47
Country Legends 2004 Green Hill Productions 3:48
The Ultimate Country Collection [Universal International] 2005
Various Artists
Universal International 3:48
Bigger Than Life Collection 2005 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3:48
No Image 2005 Prism Leisure Corporation (UK)
The Country Outlaws [Horizon] 2005
Various Artists
Horizon 3:37
Classic Country: Crazy Country Hits 2005
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:48
Country Legends [Country Legends] 2005 Country Legends
The Man in Black [American Legends] 2005 American Legends / Allegro Corporation 3:38
The Legend [Columbia] 2005 Sony BMG / Sony Music Distribution
Platinum Collection 2005 Prime Sound 3:20
The Legend of Johnny Cash 2005 Mercury / Universal Music 3:39
Ring of Fire: The Legend of Johnny Cash 2005 Mercury / Universal Music 3:45
The Kings and Queens of Country [Sony] 2005
Various Artists
Sony BMG 3:40
America/Live at Madison Square Garden 2006 Sony Music Distribution
Essential Sixties: 1965-1969 2006
Various Artists
Sony BMG
Bits and Pieces about Johnny Cash 2006 Delta Distribution / LA. Li 3:20
Man in Black: Live in Denmark 1971 2006 Sony Music 3:26
Greatest Hits [Kaleidoscope] 2006 Kaleidoscope
Two Sides to Johnny Cash 2006 Umbrella
Johnny Cash in Ireland 1993 2006 Mercury
Ultimate Country Redneck 2007
Various Artists
Madacy 3:42
Lost Vagueness 2007
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:39
Superstars of Country [Time Life] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:46
Simply the Best of the 60s [2007] 2007
Various Artists
Sony BMG 3:46
The Johnny Cash Show: The Best of Johnny Cash 2007 Sony Music Distribution
Top Of The Pops 1969 2007
Various Artists
EMI 3:47
A Boy Named Sue [LT Series] 2007 Lt Series 3:37
The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show [DVD] 2007 Col
The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show: 1969-1971 2008 BMG / Sony Music Entertainment 3:39
At San Quentin/Orange Blossom Special 2008 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:58
The Line: Walking With a Legend 2008 Well Go USA
Playlist: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 2008 Sony Music Entertainment 3:47
The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show 2008 Col 3:38
Wanted Man: The Johnny Cash Collection 2008 Sony BMG
Hit Collection 2008 Sony BMG 3:45
Top of the Pops Collection [43 CD] 2008
Various Artists
EMI
Greatest Hits [Steel Box Collection] 2008 Commercial Canada / Sony Music Distribution 3:46
Purely Johnny Cash 2008 Delta Distribution / Purely 3:33
The Best of Johnny Cash [Entertain Me] 2008 Entertain Me 3:33
Best of Johnny Cash [Sony/BMG] 2008 Legacy 3:47
Legends of Country Music [Music Digital] 2008
Various Artists
Delta Distribution / Music Digital 3:35
At Madison Square Garden/Man in Black: Live in Denmark 1971 2008 Columbia/Legacy
Ring of Fire: Live San Antonio 1974 2008 Entertain Me 3:33
The Music of Johnny Cash 2009 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:44
At San Quentin/At Folsom Prison 2009 Col 3:58
No Image 2009
Various Artists
Commercial Canada 3:47
Setlist: The Very Best of Johnny Cash Live 2010 Columbia / Legacy 3:23
Longing for Old Virginia 2010 All Access 3:08
Legends: Super Hits/Super Hits, Vol. 2 2010 Allegro Corporation / American Legends 3:47
The Golden Age of Country [Time-Life] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:48
Bootleg, Vol. 3: Live Around the World 2011 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Legacy 3:38
The Classics 2012 Sony Music 3:47
The  Greatest: The Number Ones 2012 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Legacy
The  Complete Columbia Album Collection 2012 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Legacy 4:24
Country: Johnny Cash 2012 BMG / Sony Music Entertainment 3:48
Legends of Country 2013
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:46
Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music: 1969 2013
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 3:46
100 Hits: 60s Originals 2013
Various Artists
100 Hits 3:47
Top 40: Sixties 2014
Various Artists
Crimson
The Box Set Series 2014 Columbia / Legacy 3:45
The Greatest Ever: Country 2014
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing / Wienerworld 3:37
Out Among the Stars/The Classics 2014 Columbia / Sony Legacy 3:47
100 Hits: Country Greats 2014
Various Artists
100 Hits 3:39
Wheeling West Virginia: October 2, 1976 2015 Hotspur
'60s Summer Album 2016
Various Artists
Crimson
The  Broadcast Archive 2017 Broadcast Archive 3:08
25 Jahre Popmusik: 1969/1970
Various Artists
CBS Records
Country Greats [Columbia River Box #2]
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group
Eternal Voices
Various Artists
Telstar TV Records
No Image
Various Artists
StarVista / Time Life 2:41
It Ain't Me Babe Sony Music Distribution
Music 68
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:47
On Your 60's Radio
Various Artists
Columbia 3:47
The  Collection [Camden 2011] Camden
blue highlight denotes editor's pick