Note from Joe: Most folks think that Johnny Cash wrote this, but it was originally a poem by none other than Shel Silverstein, the author of Where The Sidewalk Ends and many other bestselling children’s books. Johnny Cash said, “I still think that it is the most cleverly written song that I have ever heard.” His famous recording of this song (MP3, 5.49 MB) was made at San Quentin Prison, California, on February 24, 1969.
Well, he must’ve thought that is was quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from lots of folk.
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I’d get red
And some guy’d laugh and I’d bust his head.
I tell you, life ain’t easy for a boy named “Sue”!
Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean;
My fist got hard and my wits got keen.
I’d roam from town to town to hide my shame.
But I made me a vow to the moon and stars
That I’d search the honky-tonks and bars
And kill that man that gave me that awful name.
Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
And I just hit town and my throat was dry.
I thought I’d stop and have myself a brew.
At an old saloon on a street of mud,
There at a table, dealing stud,
Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me “Sue”.
Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
From a worn-out picture that my mother’d had,
And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
He was big and bent and gray and old,
And I looked at him and my blood ran cold
And I said:
“My name is Sue!
How do you do!
Now you gonna die!!”
Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes,
And he went down but, to my surprise,
He came up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear!
So I busted a chair right across his teeth
And we crashed through the wall and into the street
Kicking and gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.
I tell you, I’ve fought tougher men,
But I really can’t remember when!
He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile!
I heard him laugh, and then he cursed;
He went for his gun, but I pulled mine first.
He stood there lookin’ at me and I saw him smile,
And he said, “Son, this world is rough
And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough,
And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help you along.
So I gave you that name and I said goodbye;
I knew you’d have to get tough or die!
It’s that name that helped to make you strong!”
He said, “Now you just fought one hell of a fight,
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you do.
But you ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in your guts and the spit in your eye
Cause I’m the [bleep] that named you Sue!”
I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
And I called him Pa, and he called me Son,
And I came away with a different point of view.
And I think about him, now and then,
Every time I try and every time I win,
And if I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!