Johnny Cash

Guess Things Happen That Way

Composed by Jack Clement

Song Review by

Johnny Cash's first singles for Sun Records were models of concision, a handful of vividly spare performances in which every note Cash and his Tennessee Two played stood out in sharp relief. By 1958, Cash was three years into his recording career, and after a few hits, Cash's recordings began to gain a bit more polish and production value. While the minimalist guitar picking of Luther Perkins provided the focal point of Cash's early sides, his eighth single, "Guess Things Happen That Way," featured an arrangement dominated by piano and a vocal chorus adding distinctive "ba-doo"s throughout. While the results sounded slicker than, say, "Cry Cry Cry" or "I Walk the Line," "Guess Things Happen That Way" has an eccentric tone all its own -- largely because the vocal chorus (who sound as if they're occupying a middle ground between doo wop and barbershop quartet) is in such stark contrast to Cash's lead vocal. "Guess Things Happen That Way" is a song about a man struggling to put his life back together after the love of his life has left him ("You ask me if I'll forget my baby/I guess I will, someday/I don't like it, but I guess things happen that way"), and Cash's vocal is a striking mixture of hurt, confusion, and anger as he tries to make sense of his conflicting emotions, which bubble just below the song's placid surface. The depths of Cash's voice have always communicated a great deal more than what one heard at face value, and "Guess Things Happen That Way" proved how he could work this magic with the most ordinary material. The song became Cash's third number one country hit in the spring of 1958, staying at the top of the charts for eight weeks.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
With His Hot and Blue Guitar 1957 Snapper
Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous 1958 Sun Record Company
Happiness Is You 1966
Showtime 1969 Bellaphon Records
Original Golden Hits, Vol. 2 1970 Bellaphon Records
Walls of a Prison 1970 Harmony
No Image 1971 Col / Sony BMG
No Image 1975
Various Artists
Sessions Records
Up Through the Years, 1955-1957 1986 Bear Family Records 1:54
No Image 1987 Intertape
No Image 1988 Rhino
Country U.S.A.: 1958 1989
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
The Man in Black: 1954-1958 1990 Bear Family Records 1:58
The Sun Years [Rhino] 1990 Rhino 1:47
The Man in Black: 1959-1962 1991 Columbia / Sony Music 1:49
The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 1992 Sony Music Distribution 1:48
Country Music Classics, Vol. 16 (1955-60) 1993
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 1:47
The Sun Records Collection [Rhino] 1994
Various Artists
Rhino 1:49
Golden Hits 1996 ITC Masters
The Man in Black: 1963-1969 1996 Bear Family Records 1:55
The Very Best of Johnny Cash 1996 Charly Records 1:50
The  Hits [1997] 1997 Polygram 1:44
I Walk the Line [Beacon] 1997 Boomerang Records / Beacon Records
There You Go 1998 Cleopatra
Classic Country: Golden 50's [1998] [2 CD] 1998
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 1:51
I Walk the Line: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 1999 Collectables 1:48
Man in Black: His Greatest Hits 1999 Sony Music Distribution 1:51
Great 1999 Festival Records 1:52
Sun Records: 25 All-Time Greatest Hits 1999
Various Artists
Varese 1:50
The Essential Sun Collection 1999 Recall (UK) 1:50
Sings the Greatest Hits/The Blue Train 1999 Collectables 1:53
Lost Gems of the 50's, Vol. 1 1999
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 1:47
Greatest Hits of Johnny Cash, Vol. 2 2000 Platinum Disc 1:53
Rock N Roll Box [Import] [8  Disc] 2000
Various Artists
Import 1:50
Gold Collection [Retro] 2000 Retro Music 1:51
Sun Records: The Definitive Hits 2000
Various Artists
Collectables 1:50
The Legend at His Best: Ultimate Box Set & Autobiography 2000 Collectables 1:50
The Sun Years, Vol. 1 2000 Original Sun Recordings (Italy) 1:53
A Living Legend 2000 Teevee Records 1:51
The EP Collection 2000 See For Miles Records 1:51
Very Best of Johnny Cash, Vol. 1 2000 Collectables 1:50
The Sun Records Story 2001
Various Artists
Sun Record Company 1:48
Sun Records: The Definitive Hits, Vol. 2 2001
Various Artists
Collectables 1:50
Best of Johnny Cash [Spectrum] 2001 Spectrum Music / Universal Music 1:45
The Very Best of the Sun Years 2001 Metro / Metro 1:50
Classic Country [Direct Source] 2001
Various Artists
Direct Source 1:54
Sun Records 50th Anniversary Edition 2001 Sun Record Company 1:52
Greatest Hits: Best of the Best Gold 2001 Trilogie 1:55
His Sun Years 2001 Snapper 1:49
The Legends Collection, Vol. 1 2001 Dressed To Kill 1:50
Wanted Man: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 2002 Sony Music Distribution 1:49
The Essential Johnny Cash 2002 Legacy 1:49
At Town Hall Party 1958-1959 2002 Bear Family Records
No Image 2002
Various Artists
Charly Records
The Legend of Johnny Cash: The First Original Hits 2002 K-Tel Distribution 1:50
Johnny Cash Sings His Best [Double Disc] 2002 Teevee Records 1:51
Sun Record Company: 50 Golden Years 1952-2002 2002
Various Artists
A Heart of a Legend 2002 Madacy Distribution 2:15
Sun Records 50th Anniversary Box 2002
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande 1:50
400 Country Greats 2003
Various Artists
The International Music Co.
20 All-Time Original Greatest Hits 2003 Teevee Records 1:51
Storyteller 2003 Not Now Music 1:49
Classic American Voices 2003 Direct Source 1:52
Live Recordings from the Louisiana Hayride 2003 Louisiana Hayride 1:45
Man in Black: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 2003 Sony Music Distribution
I Walk the Line [Weton] 2003 Forever Gold / Weton 1:49
I Walk the Line and Other Hits 2003 Flashback Records / Rhino Flashback 1:50
Universal Masters Collection 2003 Universal Distribution 1:43
The 20 Most Requested 2003 Festival Mushroom 1:50
All American Country 2003 Polygram / Karussell 1:44
Sings His Best 2004 Teevee Records 1:51
Platinum & Gold Collection 2004 BMG Heritage 1:51
Johnny Cash Collection [Sun] 2004 Record Sales / Sun Record Company 1:50
Country Legend [Madacy] 2004 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 1:51
The Core of Rockabilly 2004
Various Artists
Red X 1:52
Hayride Anthology 2004 Cleopatra 1:46
Original Outlaw 2004 Prism Leisure 1:49
54 Great Performances 2004 Platinum Entertainment 1:49
Lonesome in Black: The Legendary Sun Recordings 2004 Metro Doubles 1:48
This Is Gold [Box] 2004 Disky 1:48
Orby Records Spotlights Johnny Cash 2004 Orbison Records 1:50
Singing at His Best 2004 Passport Audio
No Image 2004 Wonderful Music Of
This Is Gold [CD #2] 2004 Disky 1:48
Bigger Than Life Collection 2005 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:15
Sun Records Collection [Pazzazz] 2005
Various Artists
Pazzazz 1:47
Life Goes On 2005 Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd.
Live At Montreux 1994 2005 Eagle Vision
The Original Sun Albums: Complete Collection 2005 Varèse Sarabande 1:58
Train of Love 2005 Pazzazz 1:52
The Legendary 2005 Spectrum Music 1:44
I Walk the Line [Pegasus] 2005 Pegasus (Pinnacle) 1:49
Country Legend [Disky #1] 2005 Disky
The Legend [Columbia] 2005 Legacy / Columbia/Legacy 1:50
32 Original Classics 2005 Dove 1:49
I Walk the Line...Songs of Love 2005 Direct Source 1:54
I Walk the Line: Country Legends 2005 BCI-Eclipse Distribution 1:53
Walking the Line: The Legendary Sun Recordings 2005 Metro 1:49
The Complete Sun Recordings 1955-1958 2005 Time/Life Music 1:50
Ring of Fire: The Legend of Johnny Cash 2005 Universal Distribution 1:51
I Walk the Line: 25 Greatest Hits 2005 Country Stars 1:49
Collection [Madacy Box Revised] 2005 Madacy 2:15
The Collection [Foreign Media] 2006 Brilliant / Foreign 1:49
Traveling Cash: An Imaginary Journey 2006 Bear Family Records
I Walk the Line [Collectables] 2006 Collectables 1:50
Golden Legends: Johnny Cash 2006 Madacy 1:50
Walk the Line 2006 Snapper 1:48
Golden Rockin Hits, Vol. 4 2006
Various Artists
CBUJ Distribution 1:54
Bits and Pieces about Johnny Cash 2006 Delta Distribution / LA. Li 1:51
Colour Collection 2006 Universal Distribution 1:43
Boom Chicka Boom/Classic Cash 2006 Mercury 1:44
Johnny Cash [Direct Source Box Set] 2006 Direct Source 1:51
Best of Country Live 2006
Various Artists
Passport Audio
Mastercuts 2006 Mastercuts 1:49
Country Boy [Musical Memories] 2006 Musical Memories
Live at the Louisiana Hayride: Johnny Cash & June Carter 2006 CBUJ Distribution 1:45
Greatest Classic Country #1 Hits 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source 1:51
Country Hitmakers/Greatest Country 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source 1:51
Forever Johnny Cash 2006 Madacy 1:51
Forever Johnny Cash 2006 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 1:51
The Man in Black 2006 WHE
Best of the Sun Years [Charly] 2007 Charly Records / Snapper 1:48
30 #1 Country Hits of the 1950s 2007
Various Artists
Direct Source 1:51
Country #1 Hits: 18 Greatest 2007
Various Artists
Direct Source 1:51
20 Essential Classics 2007 Bayberry Records 1:51
20 Great Country Classics 2007
Various Artists
Bayberry Records 1:51
Pure 2007 Direct Source 1:51
The Rockabilly Legends: They Called it Rockabilly Long Before They Called it Rock and Roll 2007
Various Artists
Jerry Naylor
The Definitive Collection 2008 Mercury Nashville 1:45
The Line: Walking With a Legend 2008 Well Go USA
Complete Sun Masters 2008 Charly Records / Snapper 1:49
Best of Johnny Cash: Green Series 2008 Universal International 1:45
Sun Records: Collectors Edition 2008
Various Artists
Madacy 1:51
Original Greatest Hits 2008 Time/Life Music 1:52
Purely Johnny Cash 2008 Delta Distribution / Purely 1:52
Playlist Your Way 2008 Island 1:44
No Image 2008 Euro Trend / MCP
The Outlaw Trail Collection 2008
Various Artists
EDI Video 1:49
The Best of Johnny Cash [Entertain Me] 2008 Entertain Me 1:42
Classic Johnny Cash 2008 Spectrum Music 1:43
Ultimate Johnny Cash Collection 2008 Collectables 1:50
Original Sun Singles '55-'58 2009 Charly Records 1:50
I Walk the Line [Membran Music] 2009 Membran 1:52
Icon 2010 Mercury Nashville 1:45
Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music: 1958 2010
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 1:53
No Image 2010 Intermusic 1:49
No Image Delta Distribution
No Image Intermusic 1:49
No Image Phantom
No Image Intermusic 1:49
No Image Sun Record Company
No Image Sun Record Company
No Image Jasmine Records
No Image Sun Record Company
No Image Intermusic 1:49
The Fabulous Johnny Cash [EGB] EGB 1:50
blue highlight denotes editor's pick