Did you know Johnny Cash wrote a song about Ned Kelly?

By AG STAFF June 1, 2021
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It’s been half a century since Johnny Cash released his legendary album Man in Black. And on it there’s a song about our very own Ned Kelly.

The recording is just 2 minutes and 19 seconds long, and is the seventh track on his Man In Black album, which turns 50 today.

Cash largely used this 1971 album to set out his political vision: long on feeling and empathy, and short on ideology and partisanship. The United States seemed hopelessly polarised at the time, and Cash confronted that division head-on, demanding more of his fellow citizens during the apparently endless war in Vietnam.

His song about Australian bushranger Ned Kelly may well seem an odd inclusion. However, his family’s finanical and personal struggles during the Great Depression gave him a lifelong sympathy for the poor and working class, and inspired much of his music.

During his visit to Australia in 1973 he performed the song to fans, saying “country music is the music of the people.”

You can listen to it here:

And here are the full song lyrics.

In Australia a bandit or an outlaw was called a bushranger
One of Australia’s most infamous bushrangers was a man named Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly was a wild young bushranger
Out of Victoria he rode with his brother Dan
He loved his people and he loved his freedom
And he loved to ride the wide open land

Ned Kelly was a victim of the changes
That came when his land was a sprout and seed
And the wrongs he did were multiplied in legend
With young Australia growing like a weed

Ned Kelly took the blame
Ned Kelly won the fame
Ned Kelly brought the shame
And then Ned Kelly hanged

Well he hid out in the bush and in the forest
And he loved to hear the wind blow in the trees
While the men behind the badge were coming for him
Ned said they’ll never bring me to my knees

But everything was changed and run in cycles
And Ned knew that his day was at an end
He made a suit of armour out of ploughshares
But Ned was brought down by the trooper’s men

Ned Kelly took the blame
Ned Kelly won the fame
Ned Kelly brought the shame
And then Ned Kelly hanged