Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Hurt (Johnny Cash)

Written and first recorded by Nine Inch Nails (1994).
Hit version by Johnny Cash (C&W #56/ALT #33/UK #39 2002).

From the wiki: “‘Hurt’ was written by Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor for the group’s second studio album, The Downward Spiral (1994). The song received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Song in 1996, but ultimately lost to Alanis Morissette’s ‘You Oughta Know’.

“In 2002, ‘Hurt’ was covered by Johnny Cash to commercial and critical acclaim; it was one of Cash’s final hits released before his death, and the related music video was considered one of the greatest of all time by publications such as NME. Reznor praised Cash’s interpretation of the song for its ‘sincerity and meaning’, going as far as to say ‘that song isn’t mine anymore.’ The line ‘crown of shit’ was changed by Cash to ‘crown of thorns’, not only removing profanity from the lyrics, but also more directly referencing Christ and Cash’s devout Christianity.

“When Reznor was asked if Cash could cover his song, Reznor said he was ‘flattered’ but worried that ‘the idea sounded a bit gimmicky.’ He became a fan of Cash’s version, however, once he saw the music video:

‘I pop the video in, and wow… Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps… Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore… It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning – different, but every bit as pure.’

“The Johnny Cash cover was given the Country Music Association award for Single of the Year in 2003. ‘Hurt’ was also nominated for six awards at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, winning for Best Cinematography. With the video, Johnny Cash became the oldest artist ever nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.”

Johnny Cash, “Hurt” (2002):

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