‘The One On The Right Is On The Left’ appeared on Johnny Cash’s Everybody Loves A Nut album released in 1965. The lyrics by Jack Clement are deftly written and witty, but a load of bullshit. In an attempt to trivialize sixties protest music the message of the song, and the album as a whole, discounts the political roots of folk music. The song suggests that folk music is simply a style of music when it was actually much more than that. It was the music of the people (folks) and it spoke to real issues and feelings. Cash’s pandering to right wing, beatnik-hating rednecks was not one of his brighter moments. Cash’s tune would change with time.
But, it’s not the music that I find compelling in Johnny’s performance, it’s the way he looks and moves. The footage was shot during Cash’s Benzedrine years and he appears wired: tight-jawed and jumpy. His face is skeletal and his eyes seem haunted, distracted, frightened. I see a little bit of death in this video.
How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man.