Long before he teamed up with Rick Rubin on the American albums, Johnny Cash was looking outside his country-music world for cover material. And way back on his 1987 album Johnny Cash Is Coming To Town, he covered “The Big Light,” an Elvis Costello song that had come out only a year earlier. Now, more than 30 years later, Costello has paid Cash his own kind of tribute.
On the forthcoming album Johnny Cash: Forever Words, a number of artists have taken the unpublished writings of Cash and turned them into songs. We’ve already posted what the late Chris Cornell did with “You Never Knew My Mind,” and now Costello has shared “I’ll Still Love You,” a Cash poem that he turned into a softly sweeping piano ballad.
Talking to Rolling Stone, Costello said:
The folio of lyrics was before me on the kitchen table, and there was one lyric that was thought to be one that might suit me. And then I was glancing through the folio and that particular lyric was there on the page, and the next thing I could hear it in a very unusual way…
I knew right away it wasn’t to be played. You could hear his musical voice on many of the lyrics on the page, but not this one; not to me anyway. I heard something completely different. In this case, I just went downstairs to the upright piano and pretty much wrote what you hear in 10 minutes.
Listen to it below, via Rolling Stone:
Johnny Cash: Forever Words is out 4/6 on Legacy Recordings.