Song 280: Johnny Cash, “I Still Miss Someone” (1958)

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Johnny Cash’s voice never changed from song to song, but that’s because it had everything it needed: joy, anger, contentment, years. That stark, matter-of-fact voice somehow conveyed whatever emotion was necessary for the song.

In the case of “I Still Miss Someone,” that emotion was just plain sadness. Despite the chugging drums and jaunty tempo, this is a bummer of a song: the narrator can’t do anything enjoyable because he misses his former lover. Cash obviously made some amazing music over the years, and much of it was more accomplished and complex than “I Still Miss Someone,” but that’s kind of what I like about this song. It’s so simple, so direct. I miss somebody, so I can’t do anything. And it sucks.

There appear to be a million versions of “I Still Miss Someone” out there (I first got to know the song because of Robert Earl Keen’s rendition), but some of my favorites are Cash’s duets. There’s the backstage toss-off with Dylan, the polished TV version with Joni Mitchell, and this very sweet one with the incomparable Willie Nelson. In every version, no matter the level of formality or the complexity of the arrangement, the song sounds the same: sad, beautiful, and unmistakably the work of the fabulous Johnny Cash.

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