Meaning of The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash & Lyrics

Johnny Cash’s America IV: The Man Comes Around consists almost entirely of cover versions of other people’s songs, including the famous Bridge Over Troubled Water, Personal Jesus, In My Life and Hurt.

The legendary American musician presented only three of his compositions. Among them is the title track The Man Comes Around, written seven years before the release of the record.

The story of the creation of the song The Man Comes Around

The idea of ​​the future song was born from the author thanks to an interesting dream. Here’s what Johnny Cash had to say about the history behind the song:

The original idea came from a dream a few years ago. I was… in England where I bought the book Dreaming of the Queen [«Мечтая о королеве»]. The book was about… people… who dream of being close to Queen Elizabeth II. I dreamed that I went into Buckingham Palace, and there she was sitting … As I approached, she looked up at me and said: “Johnny Cash! You are like a thorn in a storm.” Then, of course, I woke up. It became clear to me that the phrase “thorn in a storm” sounded familiar to me.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that it is biblical, and found it in the Book of Job. Gradually, it began to turn into a song, and I began to borrow different things from Revelation. This is how The Man Comes Around appeared.

Synopsis for American IV

The lyrics of the song are full of references to various chapters of the Bible. Below is an analysis of the text with reference to specific verses. It will help you understand the meaning of The Man Comes Around.

Release and achievements

The title track opens the album America IV: The Man Comes Around, released in November 2002.

Interesting Facts

  • The composition is included in the list of the best songs of the 2000s according to Pitchfork.
  • The song is featured on the soundtracks of many famous films, including Dawn of the Dead (2004), My Best Friend’s Girl (2008) and Logan (2017).

The Man Comes Around Lyrics by Johnny Cash

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder
One of the four beasts saying
‘Come and see.’ and I saw, and behold a white horse

There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won’t be treated all the same
There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the man comes around
The hairs on your arm will stand up
At the terror in each sip and in each sup
Will you partake of that last offered cup
Or disappear into the potter’s ground?
When the man comes around

Hear the trumpets hear the pipers
One hundred million angels singin’
Multitudes are marchin’ to the big kettledrum
Voices callin’, voices cryin’
Some are born and some are dying
It’s alpha and omega’s kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree
It’s hard for you to kick against the pricks

Till armageddon no shalam, no shalom
Then the father hen will call his chickens home
The wise men will bow down before the throne
And at his feet they’ll cast their golden crowns
When the man comes around
Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still
Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still
Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still
Listen to the words long written down
When the man comes around


In measured hundredweight and penny pound
When the man comes around

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts
And I looked, and behold a pale horse
And his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him

  • Revelation 6:1
  • Clear allusion to Christ and possible reference to Leadbelly’s “There’s A Man Going Around Taking Names”
  • Genesis 28:12
  • Gospel of Matthew 26:26.
  • First Corinthians 15:52
  • Revelation 5:11
  • Revelation 1:8
  • Job 38
  • Gospel of Matthew 25
  • Acts 9:5, 26:14
  • Matthew 23:37
  • Revelation 4:10-11
  • Revelation 22:11
  • Revelation 6:6-8
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