You are in no position to give health advice, Mr. Johnny Cash!
Johnny Cash certainly lived his paradoxes—a champion of the rebel, yet oddly reverent of the powerful. He sympathized publicly with the margins of society while simultaneously invoking a kind of nostalgic, rural wholesomeness. That in mind, it makes total sense that he’d do a public service announcement on physical fitness for Richard Nixon.
It’s not totally without its charms, either! The tune is catchy. “The man I used to be” is a pretty clever euphemism for “I got fat,” and the whole thing lends itself to that wistful reminiscing you want from a Johnny Cash. This was recorded only one year in of a seven-year period of sobriety. Before 1970 he was still doing insane amounts of pills, and engaging in super-wholesome activities like driving out to the wilderness all cranked up and accidentally setting fire to 508 acres of California National Forest.
I guess Nixon thought America needed a fitness spokesman who wouldn’t make us all feel bad about ourselves?