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 Compiled from a mountain of Cash’s handwritten poetry (all unpublished), the work in Forever Words spans the many stages of Cash’s career.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.
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 niteThey’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 smutAnd 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 skatesDown forty feet in the Cumberland mudThere’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 beSo 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 backIf you don’t know my tune you can’t get it rightI don’t talk about me in Man in WhiteTruth, 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 goneThere 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 sayI don’t know anybody that I said I don’t knowAnd there ain’t anybody anywhere I oweThe I.R.S. gets the lion’s share And what is left goes to my own named heirsDon’t let ’em make it in HollywoodIf they must, tell ’em Arkansas is where they shouldHere’s a hex on whoever makes it be, So don’t make a movie ’bout meFor Love or Monee Don’t make a movie ’bout me
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.
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