Ring of Fire (song)

"Ring of Fire"
Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash US picture sleeve A.png
One of picture sleeves for 1963 US vinyl single
Single by Johnny Cash
from the album Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash
B-side "I'd Still Be There"
Released April 19, 1963
Recorded March 25, 1963
Length 2:38
Label Columbia Nashville
Producer(s) Don Law
Johnny Cash singles chronology
"Ring of Fire"
"The Matador"
"Ring of Fire"
Single by Eric Burdon & the Animals
from the album Love Is
B-side "I'm an Animal"
Released 1969
Genre [citation needed]
Length 4:58 (album version)
Label MGM
Producer(s) Tom Wilson
Eric Burdon & the Animals singles chronology
"White Houses"
"Ring of Fire"
"River Deep Mountain High"
"Ring of Fire"
Single by Alan Jackson
from the album 34 Number Ones
Released 23 October 2010 (2010-10-23)
Recorded 2010
Genre Country
Length 3:12
Label Sony Music Entertainment
Producer(s) Keith Stegall
Alan Jackson singles chronology
"Hard Hat and a Hammer"
"Ring of Fire"
"Long Way to Go"
"Ring of Fire (1988 Version)"
Single by Johnny Cash
from the album Classic Cash: Hall of Fame Series
Released September 19, 1988
Recorded October, 1987
Length 2:44
Label Mercury
Producer(s) Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash singles chronology
"I Walk the Line"
"Ring of Fire (1988 Version)"
"Ballad of Ira Haynes"

"Ring of Fire" is a song written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore and popularized by Johnny Cash in 1963. 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". "Ring of Fire" was ranked No. 4 on CMT's 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music in 2003 and #87 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In June 2014, Rolling Stone ranked the song #27 on its list of the 100 greatest country songs of all time.[1]

The song was recorded on March 25, 1963, and became one of the biggest hits of Cash's career, staying at number one on the country chart for seven weeks. It was certified Gold on January 21, 2010, by the RIAA and has also sold over 1.2 million digital downloads.[2]


Although "Ring of Fire" sounds ominous, the term refers to falling in love – which is what June Carter was experiencing with Johnny Cash at the time.[citation needed] Some sources claim that Carter had seen the phrase "Love is like a burning ring of fire," underlined in one of A. P. Carter's—her uncle—Elizabethan poetry books.[3][4] She worked with Kilgore on writing a song inspired by this phrase as she had seen her uncle do in the past. She had written: "There is no way to be in that kind of hell, no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns".[5]

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". Mercury released Anita's version as a single and it was a featured "pick hit" in Billboard magazine. After hearing Anita's version, Cash claimed he had a dream where he heard the song accompanied by "Mexican horns". Cash said, "[...] I'll give you about five or six more months, and if you don't hit with it, I'm gonna record it the way I feel it."[6] Cash noted that adding trumpets was a change to his basic sound.[7]

When the song failed to become a major hit for Anita, Cash recorded it his own way, adding the mariachi-style horns from his dream. This sound was later used in the song "It Ain't Me Babe", which was recorded around the same time. Mother Maybelle and the Carter sisters are prominently featured in the Cash recording singing harmony. Cash tinkered with a few of the original phrases in Anita Carter's version of the song. Cash's daughter Rosanne Cash said, "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."[8]

In 2004, Merle Kilgore, who shared writing credit for the song with June Carter, proposed licensing the song for a hemorrhoid cream commercial. When performing the song live, Kilgore would often "mock dedicate" the song to the "makers of Preparation H".[9] However, June's heirs were not of a like mind, and they refused to allow the song to be licensed for the ad.

Chart performance

Johnny Cash version

Chart (1963–68) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles[10] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[11] 17
German Singles Chart 27
Swiss Singles Chart 77

Eric Burdon and the Animals version

Chart (1969) Peak
Australian Single Chart[12] 10
Dutch Charts[12] 4
German Singles Chart[12] 24
South Africa (Springbok)[13] 6
UK Singles Chart[12] 35

Sandy Kelly & Johnny Cash version

Chart (1990) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[14] 21

Alan Jackson version

Chart (2010) Peak
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[15] 45


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[16] Gold 400,000double-dagger

double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone


Numerous cover versions of "Ring of Fire" have been produced, the most commercially successful version being by Eric Burdon & the Animals. Their version was recorded at the end of 1968, and made the top 40 in four countries.[12] In late 1974, the Eric Burdon Band released a hard rock version. Wall of Voodoo debuted with a cover of the song on their self-titled 1980 EP and featured a pulsing synthesizer. Dwight Yoakam covered it on his debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. Punk rock band Social Distortion covered it on their 1990 self-titled LP. In 1991, Frank Zappa released a reggae-style live version on the album The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life, after claiming to have met Johnny Cash in the elevator before the show and inviting him to perform the song with his band that night. Cash did not follow through on the invitation, but the band played the song anyway. A cover of the song by Alan Jackson with guest vocals from Lee Ann Womack was released as a single on December 6, 2010. It served as the lead-off single to his 34 Number Ones compilation album, and peaked at #45 in the Hot Country Songs, becoming his first single to miss the top 40 since "Just Put a Ribbon in Your Hair" peaked at #51 in 2004.[17] It was his last single released by Arista Records.

Cash's version of "Ring Of Fire" was never released as a single in the United Kingdom. However, in 1993 / 1994, the song gained significant radio airplay in the UK after it was used in a popular television commercial for Levi Jeans (entitled 'Campfire').

Wall of Voodoo's cover version was featured in the 1981 avant-garde pornographic film Nightdreams.[18]

Other versions

Jamaican reggae group The Skatalites reused the horn riff from "Ring of Fire" in their 1964 song "Music Is My Occupation".[19][20]

In 1970, Ray Charles recorded a version for his album Love Country Style.

In 1977, Olivia Newton-John included a version on her album Making a Good Thing Better.[citation needed]

In 1980, Wall of Voodoo recorded a version in their EP Wall of Voodoo.

In 1980, the band Blondie sang a version in the film Roadie.[21]

In 1986, Dwight Yoakam recorded a version for his album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc..

In 1990, Social Distortion recorded a version on their album Social Distortion.

In 1998, Grace Jones included a version on her compilation album Private Life: The Compass Point Sessions

In 2001, Earl Scruggs recorded a version on his collaboration album Earl Scruggs and Friends with Billy Bob Thornton on lead vocals.

In 2003, Marty Stuart performed the song at the CMT "100 Greatest Country Songs" concert.[22]

In 2007, Elvis Costello recorded a version for the album Anchored in Love: A Tribute to June Carter Cash.

In 2009, Adam Lambert performed the song during the Top 11 week on the eighth season of American Idol.

In 2010, the Jamaican mento band The Jolly Boys recorded a version of the song for their album Great Expectation.

In 2014, British band DragonForce released a power metal version of the song on their sixth album Maximum Overload.[citation needed]

In 2014, American country a capella group Home Free released a cover of the song featuring Avi Kaplan.

Madonna sang a cover version of Cash's song on the Nashville date of her Rebel Heart Tour on January 8, 2016.[citation needed]

In 2018, Kevin O'Reilly (more popularly known as the Irish YouTuber Call Me Kevin) released a video called "I made you a song" which included him performing a cover of the song while playing a guitar.[23]

In 2019, a cover by the band Spank Live was used in a trailer for the Nuclear Winter DLC for Fallout 76 and the song was later added to the "Appalachia Radio" which the player can use to broadcast songs instead of the instrumental background soundtrack.

In 2019, American singer/songwriter Katrina Parker released a cover of the song.[24]

In 2020, country legend Tanya Tucker covered this song (combined with Bruce Springsteen's song I'm on Fire) on her Live from the Troubadour album.

In 2020, American singer Kelly Clarkson performed the song on her talk show The Kelly Clarkson Show.


  1. ^ "100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 1 June 2014.
  2. ^ Grein, Paul (2010-09-24). "Chart Watch Extra: Songs From The Last Century". Nielsen Business Media. Yahoo! Music. Archived from the original on 2010-10-05. Retrieved 2012-03-22.
  3. ^ "Obituary: Anita Carter". The poem was "Love's Ring Of Fire by Bob Johnston, according to Johnny Cash by Stephen Miller. The (London) Independent. August 4, 1999. Retrieved on March 23, 2007.
  4. ^ Miller, Stephen (March 10, 2003). Johnny Cash: The Life of an American Icon. Omnibus. p. 117. ISBN 9780711996267 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Ring of Fire". RollingStone.com. December 9, 2004. Retrieved on March 23, 2007.
  6. ^ D'Ambrosio, A. (2009). A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears. New York: Nation Books. p. 153. ISBN 9781568586076.
  7. ^ Johnny Cash interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  8. ^ "Cash family blocks haemorrhoid ad". BBC.com. February 18, 2004. Retrieved on March 23, 2007.
  9. ^ "Cash Family Draws Line Around 'Ring of Fire'". Fox News. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944–2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 75.
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: Eighth Edition. Record Research. p. 111.
  12. ^ a b c d e The Animals chart entries, Tsort.info.
  13. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  14. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Ring of Fire". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  15. ^ "Alan Jackson Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
  16. ^ "British single certifications – Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 9 August 2019. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Ring of Fire in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  17. ^ Alan Jackson USA chart history, Billboard.com. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  18. ^ ""Nightdreams": Filmmaker Rinse Dream's visionary and surreal first foray into the world of X-rated adult films". Nightflight.com.
  19. ^ "Country Reggae Party". Theawl.com. Retrieved March 10, 2020.
  20. ^ "Drummond crucial in shaping JA's popular music". Jamaica-gleaner.com. May 10, 2015. Retrieved March 10, 2020.
  21. ^ youtube
  22. ^ http://www.cmt.com/news/1472305/stand-by-your-man-tops-cmts-100-greatest-songs/
  23. ^ Call Me Kevin (2018-04-01), I made you a song, retrieved 2019-05-02
  24. ^ Ring of Fire - Single by Katrina Parker, retrieved 2019-08-26

External links