Johnny Cash

I Walk the Line

Composed by Johnny Cash

Song Review by

A stark, desolate declaration of eternal love that at times seems to border on dangerous obsession, "I Walk the Line" made Johnny Cash a star in the summer of 1956 -- not only on the country front, where the Man in Black had prevailed ever since his Sun Records debut, "Cry! Cry! Cry!," the previous autumn, and its follow-ups "So Doggone Lonesome" and "Folsom Prison Blues" -- but on the pop hit parade too, where the country & western chart-topper made a very impressive number 17 showing on Billboard's lists. "I Walk the Line" convincingly announced the arrival of a new and unique talent whose deep, sincere vocal style and unusually sparse band accompaniment from the Tennessee Two (guitarist Luther Perkins' rudimentary lead fills were solely buttressed by Marshall Grant's slapping upright bass and Cash's own strummed acoustic axe, the latter muted by a sheet of paper slipped through the strings to provide a percussive element) sounded like nothing else then aboard the country charts. Changing keys with every stanza (each switch signaled by a long hum from Cash that sounds as though he's steadying himself on that particular key before commencing with the lyrics) over Perkins' hypnotic rhythm figure on his bass strings, the Kingsland, AR, native delivered his statement with unswerving commitment on April 2, 1956, at 706 Union in Memphis. Sun boss Sam Phillips allowed another potential hit tucked on its flip side -- the enormously infectious rocker "Get Rhythm" -- to slip away, but Cash was so prolific with a pen at that point that it probably didn't matter to anyone. "I Walk the Line" endures as Cash's signature theme.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
With His Hot and Blue Guitar 1957 Get Back Records
Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous 1958 Sun Record Company
I Walk the Line 1964 Friday Music
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 1967 Columbia 2:37
Showtime 1969 Bellaphon Records
No Image 1970
Original Soundtrack
No Image 1971 Hilltop
No Image 1972 CBS Records
I Walk the Line [Original Soundtrack] 1974 CBS Records
At Folsom Prison and San Quentin 1976 Sony BMG
20 Foot-Tappin' Greats 1978 Sony Music Distribution
No Image 1979 Sun Record Company
No Image 1984 Continental
Up Through the Years, 1955-1957 1986 Columbia
The Sun Story [Rhino] 1987
Various Artists
Rhino / Rhino/Warner Bros. 2:44
Classic Cash: Hall of Fame Series 1988 Mercury 2:33
The Man in Black: 1954-1958 1990 Bear Family Records 2:41
The Sun Years [Rhino] 1990 Rhino 2:41
The Man in Black: 1959-1962 1991 Bear Family Records 2:48
Sun's Greatest Hits [RCA] 1992
Various Artists
RCA 2:43
The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 1992 Sony Music Distribution 2:42
Country's Greatest Singer Songwriters 1993
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:41
Country Goes to the Movies [Sony] 1994
Various Artists
Risky Business
Super Hits 1994 Sony Music Distribution / Sbme Special Mkts. / Song BMG Music Entertainment 2:43
When You're Hot You're Country 1994
Various Artists
Drive Archive 2:43
Greatest Hits: Finest Performances 1995 Sun Record Company 2:47
Country Classics [Sun] 1995
Various Artists
Sun Record Company 2:47
Nashville at Newport 1995
Various Artists
Vanguard 2:42
The Kings of Country Music 1995
Various Artists
Ranwood Records 2:46
Only Country 1955-1959 1995
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels 2:12
Ultimate 1996 Bransounds 2:35
Golden Hits 1996 ITC Masters
The Man in Black: 1963-1969 1996 Bear Family Records 2:36
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Hammer & Lace 2:43
The Very Best of Johnny Cash 1996 Charly Records 2:44
The  Hits [1997] 1997 Polygram 2:32
Rockfile, Vol. 8 1997
Various Artists
Rockfile 2:41
Country Hits [Riviere] 1997
Various Artists
Riviere International Records 2:44
I Walk the Line [Beacon] 1997 Boomerang Records / Beacon Records
The Essential Country Collection [Emporio] 1997
Various Artists
Emporio 2:37
Selection of Country Love Songs [1998] 1998
Various Artists
Golden Sounds 2:46
Ring of Fire 1998 Polygram / Universal Distribution 2:31
No Image 1998 Bcd
Classic Country: Country Roots 1998
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:44
This Is Country: Giants of Country [Cleopatra/Big Eye] 1998
Various Artists
Big Eye Music 2:37
Mega Country [10 CD] 1998
Various Artists
Americana Records, Inc.
I Walk the Line: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 1999 Collectables 2:42
Man in Black: His Greatest Hits 1999 Sony Music Distribution 2:45
Great 1999 Festival Records 2:45
Sun Records: 25 All-Time Greatest Hits 1999
Various Artists
Varese 2:46
The Essential Sun Collection 1999 Recall (UK)
Showtime/Original Golden Hits, Vol. 3 1999 Collectables 2:47
Exposed Roots: Country Legends 1999
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:04
Classic Country: 1950-1964 1999
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:45
Roots of Rock 50's, Vol. 1 1999
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:42
Greatest Hits of Johnny Cash, Vol. 2 2000 Platinum Disc 2:52
Gold Collection [Retro] 2000 Proper Records
Sun Records: The Definitive Hits 2000
Various Artists
Collectables 2:45
Country Music Classics 2000
Various Artists
Import 2:38
Love, God, Murder [3 CD] 2000 Columbia / Columbia/Legacy 2:46
The Best of Sun, Vol. 1 2000
Various Artists
Original Sun Recordings (Italy) 2:47
The Legend at His Best: Ultimate Box Set & Autobiography 2000 Collectables 2:45
Best of the Sun Years [Repetoire] 2000 Repertoire
The Sun Years, Vol. 1 2000 Original Sun Recordings (Italy)
A Living Legend 2000 Teevee Records 2:46
Best of the Best 2000 Federal Records 2:45
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Prism Entertainment
History of Country Music: Classic Country Love Songs 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:37
The EP Collection 2000 See For Miles Records 2:46
Super Hits of 1956 2000
Various Artists
King / King 2:47
Very Best of Johnny Cash, Vol. 1 2000 Collectables 2:45
The Sun Records Story 2001
Various Artists
Sun Record Company 2:43
Simply the Best 2001 Columbia 2:33
Sun Records: The Definitive Hits, Vol. 1 2001
Various Artists
Collectables 2:45
Best of Johnny Cash [Spectrum] 2001 Spectrum Music
The Very Best of the Sun Years 2001 Metro / Metro 2:45
Famous Country Music Makers 2001
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd.
The Sun Story Sampler 2001
Various Artists
Original Sun Recordings (Italy) 2:46
Greatest Hits: Best of the Best Gold 2001 Sony Music Distribution
That's Country [Golden Stars] 2001
Various Artists
Golden Stars
His Sun Years 2001 Snapper 2:42
The Legends Collection, Vol. 1 2001 Dressed To Kill 2:44
Wanted Man: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 2002 Sony Music Distribution 2:46
Outlaws of Country [Columbia River] 2002
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 3:01
The Essential Johnny Cash 2002 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:43
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 2:45
At Folsom Prison/At San Quentin/America 2002 Legacy / Columbia 3:29
Troubadours: The Essential Album 2002
Various Artists
Mantra Records
No Image 2002 Mercury 2:35
Summer Country: 41 Classic Country Hits for a Modern World 2002
Various Artists
Totally Classic Country, Vol. 1 2002
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande / Varèse Vintage 2:46
Giant Hits [Sony] 2002 Sony Music Distribution 2:36
A Heart of a Legend 2002 Madacy Distribution 2:46
Americana Roots: The Essential Album 2002
Various Artists
Elite: Country 2002
Various Artists
Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd.
Ultimate Power of Country Love 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:37
Sun Records 50th Anniversary Box 2002
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande 2:46
The Great Tomato Singer Songwriter Collection 2003
Various Artists
Tomato 2:26
Essential Country Classics [Music Club 2003] 2003
Various Artists
Music Club International Records
Johnny Cash Sings Hank Williams 2003 Varèse Sarabande / Varese 2:47
I Walk the Line [Music Media] 2003 Music Media (Germany) / Epic 2:44
Giant Hits [Collectables] 2003 Collectables 2:36
Man in Black: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 2003 Sony Music Distribution
I Walk the Line and Other Hits 2003 Flashback Records / Rhino Flashback 2:44
The Sun Records Years 2003 Fruit Tree 2:43
Triple Value: Fifties 2003
Various Artists
Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd.
Platinum & Gold Collection 2004 BMG Heritage 2:45
Johnny Cash Collection [Sun] 2004 Record Sales / Sun Record Company 2:44
Cash Sings Cash 2004 Varèse Vintage / Varèse Sarabande 2:46
The World's Greatest Garth Brooks Tribute 2004
Various Artists
Big Eye Music / Tributized 2:59
Country Legend [Madacy] 2004 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:46
Memphis Celebrates 50 Years of Rock 'n' Roll 2004
Various Artists
BMG / BMG Heritage 2:45
No Image 2004
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 2:43
The Best of Rockabilly 2004
Various Artists
Scena Records 2:55
This Is Gold [Box] 2004 This Is Gold 2:43
Truckin' 2004
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group / Allegro Corporation 2:57
No Image 2004 Wonderful Music Of
Bigger Than Life Collection 2005 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:46
Sun Records Collection [Pazzazz] 2005
Various Artists
Pazzazz 2:42
No Image 2005 Prism Leisure Corporation (UK)
No Image 2005
Various Artists
The Original Sun Albums: Complete Collection 2005 Varèse Sarabande 2:40
Train of Love 2005 Disky
Country Legends [Country Legends] 2005 Country Legends
The Man in Black [American Legends] 2005 American Legends / Allegro Corporation 3:15
Country Legend [Disky #1] 2005 Disky
Very Best of Country & Western 2005
Various Artists
The Legend of Johnny Cash 2005 Hip-O / Island Def Jam Music Group 2:45
Live from Austin TX 2005 New West 2:56
The Complete Sun Recordings 1955-1958 2005 Time/Life Music 2:46
Greatest Country Music Collection Ever 2005
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:45
Traveling Cash: An Imaginary Journey 2006 Bear Family Records
10 Top 10's 2006 Compendia Music Group 2:44
Colour Collection 2006 Universal Distribution 2:31
Songs for My Ute, Vol. 4 2006
Various Artists
Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd.
Billboard #1s: Classic Country 2006
Various Artists
Rhino 2:45
Country Hit Parade 2006 Direct Source 2:45
Mastercuts 2006 Mastercuts 2:43
Forever Johnny Cash 2006 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:46
Best of the Sun Years [Charly] 2007 Charly Records / Snapper 2:42
Number 1's: Country 2007
Various Artists
Hip-O 2:44
The Greatest Country Hits of 1956 2007
Various Artists
Acrobat 2:46
Lifetime of Country Romance Collection 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:44
At San Quentin/Orange Blossom Special 2008 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:29
Playlist: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 2008 Columbia / Legacy 2:44
Original Greatest Hits 2008 Time/Life Music 2:48
No Image 2008 St. Clair
Original Sun Singles '55-'58 2009 Charly Records 2:45
The Music of Johnny Cash 2009 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:45
American Diner [Ministry of Sound UK] 2009
Various Artists
Inspired Distribution / Inspired Records / Ministry of Sound 2:42
Country Greats [Columbia River Box #2]
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group
Country Hits, Vol. 1 [Euro Trend]
Various Artists
Euro Trend 2:44
No Image Phantom
Original Oldies of the Fifties, Vol. 12
Various Artists
Just for Records
No Image
Various Artists
Phantom Import Distribution
No Image Sun Record Company
The Fabulous Johnny Cash [EGB] EGB 2:43
The Legendary Story of Sun Records [Castle]
Various Artists
Castle Pulse 2:45
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