How ‘Hurt’ By Nine Inch Nails Became a Poignant Swan Song for Johnny Cash

Jared Linnen of Loudwire looked at the iconic Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt”, noting how Trent Reznor‘s painfully introspective lyrics became a poignant swan song for the illustrious yet nearly broken career of Johnny Cash.

In 1994 Trent Rezner produced a deeply dark and disturbing piece of music that reflected his mindset at that time. It was a bleak look into the psyche of young man desperately struggling with identity drug addiction and depression. A few years later came a cover of the song …it was a man near the end of his life a man who had largely faded from being the country music icon he once was.

Linnen further explains how the sound of an acoustic guitar, combined with the heartrending music video and his shaky voice, gave Cash’s cover a life of its own.

Johnny’s version was more bare bones acoustic guitar. The tasteful touches of organ and piano allowed Johnny’s aged and weathered voice to cut through, but it’s clear that age didn’t take anything away from Johnny’s greatness. His weakened voice allowed him to convey emotion in a deeper way and you believe the wisdom he’s espousing.

Linnen also noted how legendary music producer Rick Rubin explained how the age difference between the two men gave room for interpretation.

When you’re 20 years old talking about regret, it’s heartbreaking. But it’s heartbreaking in a different way because you have a whole life to figure it out. When you’re looking back over your life at the end of your life with regret it’s brutal.

Here’s the Johnny Cash version.

Here’s the Nine Inch Nails original version.

Here’s Rick Rubin talking to Lix Fridman about the Cash version of “Hurt”.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.