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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Johnny Cash, "Accidental" Plagiarist

When you first hear that Johnny Cash had "borrowed" the words and music to one of his most famous songs, you might think he might have taken it from an old bluesman with a name something like "Seven-Fingers" McGee. In truth, huge chunks of "Folsom Prison Blues" were lifted from a big band arranger/easy-listening composer named Gordon Jenkins in his 1953 recording "Seven Dreams".

Compare:

Jenkins' Crescent City Blues:

If I owned that lonesome whistle

If that railroad train was mine

I'll bet I'd find a man a little farther down the line

Far from Crescent City is where I'd like to stay

And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away.

and now Folsom Prison Blues:


Well, if they freed me from this prison

If that railroad train was mine

I'd bet I'd move on over a little farther down the line

Far from Folsom Prison that's where I want to stay

And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away.

Learn more about this interesting sidebar in music history here and here (don't bother trying the links on this one, just read the story).

You can get the original "Crescent City Blues" here.