Johnny Cash – God’s Gonna Cut You Down

Johnny Cash’s version of the traditional God’s Gonna Cut You Down, from the album “American V: A Hundred Highways”, was released as a music video on November 9 2006, just over three years after Cash died. Producer Rick Rubin opens the music video, saying, “You know, Johnny always wore black. He wore black because he identified with the poor and the downtrodden…”. What follows is a collection of black and white clips of well known pop artists wearing black, each interacting with the song in their own way. Some use religious imagery. Howard sits in his limo reading from Ezekiel 34, a Biblical passage warning about impending judgment for false shepherd. Bono leaning on a graffiti-filled wall between angel’s wings and a halo, pointing to the words, “Sinners Make The Best Saints. J.C. R.I.P.” A number of artists wear or hold crosses.

Faces in Johnny Cash God's Gonna Cut You Down music video


Artists appear in this order: Rick Rubin, Iggy Pop, Kanye West, Chris Martin, Kris Kristofferson, Patti Smith, Terence Howard, Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Q-Tip, Adam Levine (Maroon 5), Chris Rock, Justin Timberlake, Kate Moss, Sir Peter Blake (Sgt Peppers Artist), Sheryl Crow, Denis Hopper, Woody Harrelson, Amy Lee of Evanescence, Tommy Lee, Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, Martie Maguire (Dixie Chicks), Mick Jones, Sharon Stone, Bono, Shelby Lynne, Anthony Kiedis, Travis Barker, Lisa Marie Presley, Kid Rock, Jay Z, Keith Richards, Billy Gibbons, Corinne Bailey Rae, Johnny Depp, Graham Nash, Brian Wilson, Rick Rubin and Owen Wilson. The video finishes with Rick Rubin traveling to a seaside cliff with friend Owen Wilson to throw a bouquet of flowers up in the air.

Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube

Credits

Filming was shot by director Tony Kaye with Above The Sea producer Rachel Curl and editor Peter Goddard at Poppy Films.

The concept for the video was provided by Justin Timberlake. He first heard the recording while Rick Rubin was producing (Another Song) All Over Again. Timberlake quickly brainstormed the idea of gathering a number of popular artists wearing black for a Johnny Cash music video. Rubin called Mark Romanek, director of the Johnny Cash music video “Hurt” (see my post on Johnny Cash Hurt). Romanek wasn’t available to work on the music video, but provided some ideas a well as suggesting Tony Kaye for the job.

In an interview with MTV, November 16, 2006, Rubin said that he’d asked a few friends to make a list of the 10 coolest people on the planet. “At least five of the people in the video were on everyone’s list,” he said, “and Iggy was on a lot of lists, so it just felt right to open with him. I don’t know what that message is, but it just feels right.”

The segments were filmed in Los Angeles, New York, London and Amsterdam. Rubin said that for many of the artists in the clip their reactions capture reflective moments spurred by hearing the song for the first time. Lynne sheds tears in an intense closeup, and a serious-looking Kid Rock stomps and claps his hands along to the funereal beat. “Each person got to design their own moment,” Rubin said. “But Tony was looking more for the instant emotional impact than a pre-planned skit. Nobody was asked to lip-sync, so pretty much everything was spontaneous.”

God’s Gonna Cut You Down”, also known as “Run On”, is a traditional folk song which has been recorded by numerous artists representing a variety of genres. The song was also covered by Elvis Presley and Moby.

Johnny Cash - American V - A Hundred Highways - God's Gonna Cut You Down

Lyrics for God’s Gonna Cut You Down

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down

Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler,
The gambler,
The back biter
Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down
Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down

Well my goodness gracious let me tell you the news
My head’s been wet with the midnight dew
I’ve been down on bended knee talkin’ to the man from Galilee
He spoke to me in the voice so sweet
I thought I heard the shuffle of the angel’s feet
He called my name and my heart stood still
When he said, “John go do My will!”

Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler,
The gambler,
The back biter
Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down

Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down

Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand
Workin’ in the dark against your fellow man
But as sure as God made black and white
What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down

Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler,
The gambler,
The back biter
Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut you down
Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut you down
Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut you down

  • infinigeist

    That’s not Rick Rubin opening the video. Rick has a totally different beard than that guy. The first guy speaking is someone else, I’m not sure who. The voice is familiar, like something I’ve heard in my dad’s music collection. I’m tempted to say Waylon Jennings but I’m not rly sure, I’m just sure it’s not Rick, who’s had a Full uninterrupted beard since like, birth. I’ll have to ask daddy to find out.

  • Sharon

    Just wanted to say thanks for posting this, it was driving me CRAZY trying to figure out who all these people on this video are. I have just a few notes to add. One, in the part where they flash threw all the faces quickly?, keep your eye out Whoopi’s in there!! Also, I’m pretty darn sure in the above photo of photos, the 6th row down, third one in…..isn’t that Patricia Arquette?? Not positive, but it sure looks like her.
    Just my 2 cents, for what it’s worth!
    I LOVE THIS VIDEO!
    Sharon

  • Sharon

    forget the patricia arquette thing…..I did my research, it’s marty maguire from the dixie chicks….sorry!

  • http://DungGrieb.com Latricia Fischer

    Johnny Depp is wonderful ! I LOVE HIM! When I become an actress I totally want to be in a film with him! LOVE HIM ! :)

  • hollyster

    Sorry, but check the woman’s teeth..I’ve been looking at pictures of Patricia A. and of Marty M., becuase this has also been a dillema for me. I also thought the first time I saw the video that it’s Patricia A. And IT IS! check her teeth. Marty M has totally straight front teeth, but Patricia A. and the woman in the video don’t. So yes, it is my belief that it’s definitely Patricia Arquette!