Johnny Cash

Ring of Fire

Composed by June Carter Cash / Merle Kilgore

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
Billboard Top Country Hits: 1963 1963
Various Artists
Rhino 2:39
Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash 1963 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:38
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 1967 Columbia 2:39
No Image 1972 CBS Records
20 Foot-Tappin' Greats 1978 Sony Music Distribution
16 by 4 1979
Various Artists
CBS Records 2:37
No Image 1979 Columbia / Sony Music Entertainment 2:39
No Image 1981 CBS Records
Columbia Records 1958-1986 1987 Columbia 2:35
No Image 1988 Masterpiece
Country Music Classics, Vol. 9 (Mid 60's) 1990
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 0:00
Columbia Country Classics, Vol. 4: The Nashville Sound 1991
Various Artists
Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 2:37
Many Sides of Johnny Cash 1991 Sony Music Distribution 2:37
The Best of Johnny Cash [Curb] 1991 Curb 2:35
The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 1992 Sony Music Distribution 2:36
No Image 1993
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 0:00
Hits [1993] 1993 Sony Music Distribution 2:35
All-Time Legends of Country Music 1994
Various Artists
Columbia / Legacy 2:35
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
Here's Johnny 1995 Sony Music Distribution 2:36
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 Hits of the '60s 1997
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:36
The Academy of Country Music's 101 Greatest Country Hits, Vol. 6: Timeless Country 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:40
The Rebel 1997 Ariola Express
U Turn [Original Soundtrack] 1997 Epic / Sony Music Distribution 2:36
Hot Country [Beacon] 1997
Various Artists
Beacon Records (Rock) / Beacon Records
Golden Country Hits, Vol. 2  [Box Set] 1997
Various Artists
Pmf 2:48
Golden Country Hits, Vol. 6 1997
Various Artists
Peter's 2:48
Mega Country, Vol. 1 1998
Various Artists
The Oliver Stone Connection 1998
Various Artists
Hip-O 2:32
16 Biggest Hits 1999 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:36
Man in Black: His Greatest Hits 1999 Columbia / Legacy 2:36
Country: The American Tradition 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:36
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:36
Classic Country [Time-Life Box Set] 1999
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:35
Classic Country: Country Tradition 1999
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:35
Classic Country: 1960-1964 1999
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:39
No Image 2000 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 2:36
Best of Johnny Cash [Castle] 2000 Castle Music Ltd. 2:53
Love, God, Murder [3 CD] 2000 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 Columbia 2:37
All Music Guide: Cool Country 2001
Various Artists
All Music Guide / Medalist Entertainment 2:38
Collection [Madacy Box] 2001 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:36
Wanted Man: The Very Best of Johnny Cash 2002 Mercury 0:00
The Essential Johnny Cash 2002 Legacy / Columbia 2:35
Johnny Cash Sings His Best [Double Disc] 2002 Teevee Records 2:35
At Folsom Prison/At San Quentin/America 2002 Legacy / Columbia 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
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
The Original: Best of Johnny Cash 2003 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:37
Sings His Best 2004 Teevee Records 2:35
Ring of Fire [Laserlight] 2004 Laserlight 2:46
No Image 2004
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:40
Bigger Than Life Collection 2005 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:37
The Man, His World, His Music [DVD] [2005] 2005 Sanctuary
The Man in Black [American Legends] 2005 American Legends / Allegro Corporation 2:48
The Legendary 2005 Spectrum Music 2:43
Ring of Fire: The Legend of Johnny Cash 2005 Universal Distribution 2:35
The Kings and Queens of Country [Sony] 2005
Various Artists
Sony BMG 2:37
LateNightTales 2006 LateNightTales 1:39
Hall of Fame 2006 Laserlight 2:45
Legends of Country: Classic Hits from the '50s, '60s & '70s 2006
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 2:37
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection 2007 Mercury Nashville 2:45
Silver Collection 2007 Universal Distribution 2:45
Country Top Hits of the 60's 2007
Various Artists
Collectables 2:37
Hit Collection 2008 Sony BMG 2:37
Country's 20 Classic Songs of the Century 2008
Various Artists
New Haven / Provident Music 2:35
Classic Johnny Cash 2008 Spectrum Music 2:43
Triple Feature: Hymns by Johnny Cash/Now, There Was a Song!/Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cahs 2009 Sony Music 2:41
Men of Country: Triple Feature 2009 Sony BMG 2:37
Icons 2010 Sony Music 2:37
101 Barbecue Songs 2010
Various Artists
EMI 2:37
Icon 2010 Mercury Nashville 2:43
Pure... 60s 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 2:38
The Classics 2012 Sony Music 2:36
The Greatest: The Number Ones 2012 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Legacy 2:36
Love Songs: Remember - Teenage Love Songs 2012
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing 2:46
The Box Set Series 2014 Columbia / Legacy 2:38
A Lone Star State of Mind 2018 All Access 2:57
300 Hits: Rock 'n' Roll
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing / Wienerworld 2:49
60s U.S. Playlist
Various Artists
Crimson 2:37
Blueberry Hill [Bellevue]
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing 2:49
Country Legends [Sony 2013]
Various Artists
Sony Music 2:36
Country Music of Your Life
Various Artists
Rhino / StarVista / Time Life 2:36
Kings Of Country [CNR]
Various Artists
CNR 2:37
Time Life: '60s Country
Various Artists
Time Life 2:37