Chris Cornell couldn’t rewrite ‘Rusty Cage’ for Johnny Cash
It’s not as though Soundgarden needed more fans in 1996.
Their fourth album Superunknown had become one of the biggest records of the decade and smash hits like ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Spoonman’ were all over the radio.
It sounds like a song he could have written...Chris Cornell — triple j, 1997
But a hat-tip from a genuine music legend helped the band make inroads into some unexpected corners of music industry.
Suddenly, Soundgarden’s 1992 single ‘Rusty Cage’ was beloved by country fans around the world. And it’s all thanks to the legendary Johnny Cash.
“I never would have thought… Especially that song,” Chris Cornell told triple j’s Richard Kingsmill in 1997. “That was great.”
Producer Rick Rubin had invited Cornell to rework the song for Cash, and the frontman accepted the challenge.
But he soon realised it wasn’t going to work.
“A couple of years ago his producer had asked if I wanted to do an arrangement of that song that he could do,” Cornell explained.
“I sat down and I tried a little bit, but I just couldn’t hear it, really. Lyrically I could hear it, but his style of playing and songwriting is really a different genre. As much as I was a fan of his, I just couldn’t naturally do it."
When Cornell heard Cash’s final version, he was relieved that he decided not to try forcing out his own country-style arrangement.
“I’m glad that I didn’t, because what they did with it is so much him,” he said. “It sounds like a song he could have written, which is great. That’s the way it has to be. I just heard a few months ago that he had done it. They did it much better than I would have done.”
Chris Cornell passed away in Detroit at the age of 52 this week.