Johnny Cash

Ring of Fire

Song Review by

Johnny Cash had a hit with "Ring of Fire" -- a song co-written by his wife, June Carter, and Merle Kilgore -- in the summer of 1964. By that point, he had already become a country super star, but the early '60s had been a little bit of a fallow period for Cash. The Top Ten hits stopped flowing steadily in the spring of 1960, and while he was still charting, he hadn't had a huge smash in a few years. "Ring of Fire" changed all that. Spending seven weeks at number one and reaching the pop Top 20, the single ushered in the second great wave of hit singles from Cash. More importantly, it cemented the image of Johnny Cash, "the Man in Black" -- not necessarily an outlaw, but certainly an outsider.

In light of that, the mariachi horns that grace the song seem a little incongruous, but even while those horns sound a little dated, the song still sounds tough, particularly because the chorus about "I fell down in a burning ring of fire" sounds so ominous. It's easy to forget that the "Ring of Fire" is just a metaphor for falling in love because a "Ring of Fire" sounds so intimidating and dangerous. Falling into a "Ring of Fire" is something an outlaw would do, or at least it sounded that way, so the song gave Cash a cool, outsider reputation. That's the reason why rockers -- from surf god Dick Dale and rockabilly cat Sleepy LaBeef to post-punkers Blondie and Social Distortion and old-school bad boy Eric Burdon -- chose to cover this song when they wanted to pay tribute to Johnny Cash. And, while certain lyrics are a little corny, it was such a strong song that it sounded good in this myriad of covers. Throughout it all, Cash's original stood strong, because it was a forceful blend of his image and musical attitude. Even though those mariachi horns sound a little silly at times.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash 1963 Columbia / Legacy 2:41
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 1967 Columbia 2:39
Johnny Cash at San Quentin 1969 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 2:07
No Image 1972 CBS Records
At Folsom Prison and San Quentin 1976 Columbia 2:07
20 Foot-Tappin' Greats 1978 Sony Music Distribution
No Image 1979 Columbia / Sony Music Entertainment / Sony/Columbia 2:39
No Image 1981 CBS Records
No Image 1984 Continental
Up Through the Years, 1955-1957 1986 Columbia
Columbia Records 1958-1986 1987 Columbia
No Image 1988 Masterpiece
I Walk the Line 1990 Payless 2:46
Giant Hits [CBS] 1990 CBS Select
Christmas 1991 Laserlight 2:47
The Man in Black: 1959-1962 1991 Columbia / Sony Music 2:35
The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 1992 Sony Music Distribution 2:36
No Image 1993
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution
Hits [1993] 1993 Sony Music Distribution 2:35
The Man in Black: Definitive Collection 1994 Concept 2:38
Super Hits 1994 Sony Music Distribution / Sbme Special Mkts. / Song BMG Music Entertainment 2:37
Love & A .45 1994
Original Soundtrack
Immortal / Sony Music Distribution 2:37
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
The 101 Greatest Country Hits [Box] 1995
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:36
Ring of Fire/Blood Sweat & Tears/Ballads of American Indians [box] 1995 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:38
48 No. 1 Country Hits 1995
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
Only Country 1960-1964 1995
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels 2:37
Ultimate 1996 Bransounds 2:44
The Man in Black: 1963-1969 1996 Bear Family Records 2:39
Outlaws Super Hits 1996
Various Artists
Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 2:37
Super Musik Box, Vol. 2 1996
Various Artists
Bear Family Records
Just Want to Make Love to You 1997
Various Artists
Movieplay Music 2:49
Super Hits of the '60s 1997
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:36
Johnny Cash Live 1997 Lasel / Laserlight 2:48
The Academy of Country Music's 101 Greatest Country Hits, Vol. 6: Timeless Country 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:40
The  Hits [1997] 1997 Mercury / PolyGram 2:45
The Rebel 1997 Ariola Express
Hot Country [Beacon] 1997
Various Artists
Beacon Records (Rock) / Beacon Records
Golden Country Hits, Vol. 6 1997
Various Artists
Peter's 2:48
Mega Country, Vol. 1 1998
Various Artists
Pmf
The Oliver Stone Connection 1998
Various Artists
Hip-O 2:32
Ring of Fire 1998 Polygram / Spectrum Music / Universal 2:45
16 Biggest Hits 1999 Legacy 2:38
Man in Black: His Greatest Hits 1999 Sony Music Distribution 2:37
No Image 1999 Hallmark Recordings
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:36
Classic Country: Country Tradition 1999
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:35
Patio Mixer: Starbucks Sounds For Summer Shindigs 1999
Various Artists
Rhino
La Legende Country 2000 Versailles Records 2:38
Best of Johnny Cash [Castle] 2000 Castle Music Ltd. 2:53
Love, God, Murder [3 CD] 2000 Columbia / Columbia/Legacy 2:39
The Collection [Madacy 1CD] 2000 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:36
History of Country Music: Country Classics from the 60's 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:38
Simply the Best 2001 Sony Music Distribution
Best of Johnny Cash [Spectrum] 2001 Spectrum Music / Universal Music 2:45
Legendary Country 2001
Various Artists
Disky 2:38
Famous Country Music Makers 2001
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd.
Greatest Hits: Best of the Best Gold 2001 Columbia 2:39
All Music Guide: Cool Country 2001
Various Artists
All Music Guide / Medalist Entertainment 2:38
Greatest Hits [Umbrella DVD] 2001 Umbrella
Wanted Man: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 2002 Sony Music Distribution 2:37
The Essential Johnny Cash 2002 Legacy 2:35
Johnny Cash Sings His Best [Double Disc] 2002 Teevee Records 2:35
At Folsom Prison/At San Quentin/America 2002 Columbia/Legacy 2:07
The Golden Age of American Rock 'N' Roll: Special Country Edition 2002
Various Artists
Ace 2:37
Giant Hits [Sony] 2002 Sony Music Distribution 2:37
Ultimate Country Super Hits [Sony Box Set] 2002
Various Artists
Immediate / Sony Music Distribution 2:37
Country Complete 2003
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
I Walk the Line [Music Media] 2003 Music Media (Germany) / Epic 2:36
Very Best of Country Legends [Madacy] 2003
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:38
Giant Hits [Collectables] 2003 Collectables 2:37
Man in Black: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 2003 Sony Music Distribution
I Walk the Line [Weton] 2003 Forever Gold / Weton 2:53
Universal Masters Collection 2003 Universal Distribution 2:43
Country Outlaws: Renegade Country Music 2003
Various Artists
Golden Stars
Sings His Best 2004 Teevee Records 2:35
The Definitive Country Collection [Eastwest] 2004
Various Artists
Eastwest 2:39
No Image 2004 Sony Music Distribution
54 Great Performances 2004 Platinum Entertainment 2:48
Ring of Fire [Laserlight] 2004 Laserlight 2:46
No Image 2004
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:40
Singers And Songwriters: Country USA 2004
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
Simply the Best Singers 2005
Various Artists
WEA/Warner
Bigger Than Life Collection 2005 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:37
The Man, His World, His Music [DVD] [2005] 2005 Sanctuary
Live At Montreux 1994 2005 Eagle Vision
No Image 2005
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
Great Songs from TV Commercials 2005
Various Artists
Goldies 2:49
Country Legends [Country Legends] 2005 Country Legends
The Man in Black [American Legends] 2005 American Legends / Allegro Corporation 2:48
The Legendary 2005 Spectrum Music 2:43
The Legend [Columbia] 2005 Legacy / Columbia/Legacy 2:37
Platinum Collection 2005 Prime Sound 2:34
The Legend of Johnny Cash 2005 Hip-O / Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal / Universal Strategic Marketing 2:37
Live from Austin TX 2005 New West
Ring of Fire: The Legend of Johnny Cash 2005 Mercury / Universal Music 2:36
The Kings and Queens of Country [Sony] 2005
Various Artists
Sony BMG 2:37
I Walk the Line [Collectables] 2006 Collectables 2:42
Hall of Fame 2006 Laserlight 2:45
Music for Real Cowboys 2006
Various Artists
Laserlight 2:47
Essential Sixties: 1960-1964 2006
Various Artists
Sony BMG
Bits and Pieces about Johnny Cash 2006 Delta Distribution / LA. Li 2:46
Guinness Book of Hit Singles: The Hits That Never Were 2006
Various Artists
BMG / Sony BMG
Boom Chicka Boom/Classic Cash 2006 Mercury / Universal/Mercury 2:44
Greatest Hits [Kaleidoscope] 2006 Kaleidoscope
Country Lovin' [Rajon] 2006
Various Artists
Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd.
Two Sides to Johnny Cash 2006 Umbrella
I Love Country 2006
Various Artists
EMI/Virgin TV
Legends of Country: Classic Hits from the '50s, '60s & '70s 2006
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 2:37
Lifetime of Country Romance: I Can't Stop Lovin' You 2006
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:39
60's Collection [Flashback] 2007
Various Artists
Flashback Records
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection 2007 Mercury / Nashville 2:43
Beginner's Guide to Country 2007
Various Artists
Nascente 2:36
The Great Lost Performance 2007 Island / Mercury / Mercury Nashville / Nashville 3:22
Lifetime of Country Romance Collection 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:39
Love, God, Murder, Life [4 CD] 2007 Columbia 2:38
Absolute 60s Legends 2007
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 2:35
Silver Collection 2007 Universal Distribution 2:45
Opry Video Classics: Legends 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
A Boy Named Sue [LT Series] 2007 Lt Series 2:50
Country Top Hits of the 60's 2007
Various Artists
Collectables 2:37
No Image 2007 CMV/Legacy
At San Quentin/Orange Blossom Special 2008 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:07
100 Hits: Pop 2008
Various Artists
100 Hits / Crimson Productions / Demon 2:36
The Definitive Collection 2008 Mercury Nashville / Universal 2:43
The Line: Walking With a Legend 2008 Well Go USA
Playlist: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 2008 Columbia / Legacy 2:36
The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show 2008 Col
Hit Collection 2008 Sony BMG 2:37
Country's 20 Classic Songs of the Century 2008
Various Artists
New Haven / Provident Music 2:35
Purely Johnny Cash 2008 Delta Distribution / Purely 2:47
Playlist Your Way 2008 Island 2:45
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Euro Trend / MCP
The Best of Johnny Cash [Entertain Me] 2008 Entertain Me 2:49
Legends of Country Music [Music Digital] 2008
Various Artists
Delta Distribution / Music Digital 2:48
Gold: Greatest Hits 2008 Sony Music / Sony Music Distribution 2:37
Classic Johnny Cash 2008 Spectrum Music 2:43
Vintage Country: The Golden Age of Country Music 2008
Various Artists
Hear Music / Sony BMG 2:36
Triple Feature: Hymns by Johnny Cash/Now, There Was a Song!/Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cahs 2009 Sony Music 2:41
I Walk the Line [Musicpro DVD] 2009 Forever Records / Musicpro
The Music of Johnny Cash 2009 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:38
At San Quentin/At Folsom Prison 2009 Col 2:06
No Image 2009
Various Artists
Commercial Canada 2:35
Icons 2010 Sony Music 2:37
101 Barbecue Songs 2010
Various Artists
EMI 2:37
Icon 2010 Mercury Nashville 2:43
Legends: Super Hits/Super Hits, Vol. 2 2010 Allegro Corporation / American Legends 2:37
Pure... America 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music 2:37
Country Music's Best [Dance Street] 2011
Various Artists
Dance Street / ZYX Music 2:45
The  Great Lost Performance 2011 Troublevision 3:21
Bootleg, Vol. 3: Live Around the World 2011 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Legacy 1:58
Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music: 1963 2011
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 2:37
Grand Ole Opry Classic Collection: Classic Hits 2011
Various Artists
Opry 2:13
Pure... 60s 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 2:38
I Walk the Line: The Golden Years 2012 Laser Media 2:58
The Classics 2012 Sony Music 2:36
The  Greatest: The Number Ones 2012 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Legacy 2:36
Opus Collection 2012 Starbucks
No Image
Various Artists
Tabak 2:37
No Image
Various Artists
Greatest Ever Sixties
Various Artists
Greatest Ever
It Ain't Me Babe Sony Music Distribution
Kings Of Country [CNR]
Various Artists
CNR 2:37
No Image K-Tel 2:48
Levi's Hits, Vol. 3
Various Artists
Eastwest
Live from Austin TX [DVD] New West
No Image
Various Artists
Golden Stars 2:49
The  Best of Classic Rock: Green Series
Various Artists
Strategic Marketing 2:45
The  Best of Johnny Cash [Sony] Sony Music Distribution
This Is the Sound of...Johnny Cash Universal 2:43
blue highlight denotes editor's pick