Don’t Make a Movie About Me



This month, Blue Rider Press will publish Forever Words: The Unknown Poems of Johnny Cash. Compiled from a mountain of Cash’s handwritten poetry (all unpublished), the work in Forever Words spans the many stages of Cash’s career. “Don’t Make a Movie About Me” is one of many pieces within that reflect Cash’s “humorous strand,” poet Paul Muldoon writes in his introduction. It reflects “Cash’s own ambivalence about celebrity and the associated tabloid slobbering.”


From the cover of Out Among the Stars.

Christmas 1982

If anybody made a movie out of my life 

I wouldn’t like it, but I’d watch it twice 

If they halfway tried to do it right 

There’d be forty screen writers workin’ day and nite
They’d need a research team from Uncle Sam
And go from David Allen Coe to Billy Graham
It would run ten days in the final cut
And that would mean leaving out the gossip smut
And I do request for my children’s sake
Don’t ever let ’em do a new re-make
The thing I’m sayin’ is, don’t you see,
Don’t make a movie ’bout me
Even for T.V.
Don’t make a movie ’bout me 

Don’t let ’em drag old Hickory Lake
For my telephones and bottles and roller skates
Down forty feet in the Cumberland mud
There’s a rusty old gun that once shed blood
Out a hundred yards from my lakeside house
Weighted down with a rock is a skirt and blouse
A dozen pair of boots that made a dozen corns
Trombones, trumpets, harmonicas and horns
And the tapes that I threw from the lakeside door
Silverstein, and Kristofferson from years before
Everything has a story that should be let be
So don’t make a movie ’bout me

If they’re hot on a book called Man in Black
Tell ’em I’ve got the rights and won’t give back
If you don’t know my tune you can’t get it right
I don’t talk about me in Man in White
Truth, said the Master, cannot be hid
But he didn’t say slap it in the face of my kids.
A stone is a stone and forever a stone
But I’m part good and bad and then I’m gone
There is no sin cleaner than the dirtiest
So there’s a lot about me that I don’t want missed
If it’s days or years or whatever will be
Don’t make a movie ’bout me

Aw, I might as well face it cause they will some day
So while I can I’ve got a thing to say
I don’t know anybody that I said I don’t know
And there ain’t anybody anywhere I owe
The I.R.S. gets the lion’s share
And what is left goes to my own named heirs
Don’t let ’em make it in Hollywood
If they must, tell ’em Arkansas is where they should
Here’s a hex on whoever makes it be,
So don’t make a movie ’bout me
For Love or Monee
Don’t make a movie ’bout me

Facsimile of “Don’t Make a Movie About Me,” from Jonny Cash’s papers.

Facsimile of “Don’t Make a Movie About Me,” from Johnny Cash’s handwritten poems.

From Forever Words: The Unknown Poems by Johnny Cash, to be published on November 15 by Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Foreword copyright © 2016 by John Carter Cash.