“The song is about the transformative power of love and that’s what it has always meant to me and that’s what it will always mean to the Cash children.”
– Rosanne Cash
“Ring of Fire” or “The Ring of Fire” is a country music song popularized by Johnny Cash and co-written by June Carter Cash (wife of Johnny Cash) and Merle Kilgore. The single appears on Cash’s 1963 album, Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash. The song was originally recorded by June’s sister, Anita Carter, on her Mercury Records album Folk Songs Old and New (1963) as “(Love’s) Ring of Fire”.
Anita Carter – Love’s Ring of Fire:
According to the Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Songs, June Carter wrote this song while driving around aimlessly one night, worried about Cash’s wild man ways – and aware that she couldn’t resist him.
“There is no way to be in that kind of hell, no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns”
Not long after hearing June’s sister Anita’s take on the song, Cash had a dream that he was singing it with Mariachi horns. Cash’s version became one of his biggest hits, and his marriage to June 4 years later helped save his life. The song was maybe inspired by the poem Love’s Ring Of Fire, and it was originally recorded in a more folksy manner by June Carter’s sister, Anita, as “Love’s Fiery Ring.”/”Love’s Ring of Fire”. Cash held back on his single to give her version a chance to chart.
In her autobiography I Walked the Line, Johnny Cash’s first wife, Vivian Cash, denies that June Carter had any part in writing “Ring of Fire.”
“She didn’t write that song any more than I did. The truth is, Johnny wrote that song, while pilled up and drunk, about a certain private female body part.”
– Vivian Cash
I don’t know, but it doesn’t ring true to me.
The Story of Ring of Fire part 1:
I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher,
And it burns, burn, burns,
The ring of fire, the ring of fire.
The Story of Ring of Fire part 2:
And finally, here are two versions, 41 years apart, by Johnny Cash:
Ring of Fire, Live 1963:
Ring of Fire, Live 1994:
Sources: Wikipedia, Allmusic.com, Rolling Stone Magazine, I walked the line by Vivian Cash, Cash by Johnny Cash/Patrick Carr