Seems like you can almost hear a train in the rhythm of many of Johnny Cash’s (Great American Things, June 6, 2009) songs. That distinctive sound is one of the elements that makes “I Walk the Line” memorable. That, along with simple but heartfelt lyrics and that unmistakable Johnny Cash voice.
One of the distinctive things about the song is that, going against convention, “I Walk the Line” doesn’t build to a conclusion. In fact, the last verse is sung an octave lower than the first verse. People asked Johnny why he hummed before each verse. The song changes keys several times, and he said “I hum to get my pitch.”
The song was released on the famous Sun label. It was Johnny Cash’s first number one country hit, and made it to number 17 on the pop chart. “Because you’re mine,” he sings, “I walk the line.” Johnny, what did you mean by that? “I was newly married at the time, and I suppose I was laying out my pledge of devotion.” I guess he did, with a song that stayed on the chart for 43 weeks, and earned the number 30 spot on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.