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Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)

28 Aug 08 - 12:32 PM (#2424445)
Subject: Folklore: Forty Shades of Green - Origin Request
From: GUEST,Heather Davidson - Reference Librarian

I have a patron asking for the origins of 40 Shades of Green. Did Johnny Cash really write this? if so, why? if not, who did and why??


28 Aug 08 - 01:15 PM (#2424514)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Forty Shades of Green - Origin Request
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Looks like Johnny Cash wrote it in the 1960s after a visit to Ireland. Cannot find any indication of it prior to the Cash copyright. Checked several compendia of Irish song.

The expression, "forty shades of green" is much older.

A couple of websites call it traditional. It is mishmash of Irish references; so this is unlikely.

There are several threads which contribute little except the lyrics, and the song lyrics are in the DT. Enter -forty shades of green- in Lyrics and Knowledge Search to find them.


28 Aug 08 - 01:38 PM (#2424538)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Forty Shades of Green - Origin Request
From: Sandy Mc Lean

Johnny Cash wrote the song. It sounds traditional but it is his own.
Watch this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KrqpNic92o


28 Aug 08 - 01:42 PM (#2424546)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Forty Shades of Green - Origin Request
From: GUEST

Thanks for the quick responses!


28 Aug 08 - 01:48 PM (#2424552)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Forty Shades of Green - Origin Request
From: Hillheader

Was it the case he was asked to do a St Patricks Night gig and wanted something original? Or is the just folklore?


28 Aug 08 - 05:27 PM (#2424814)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Forty Shades of Green - Origin Request
From: Brakn

I don't think he wrote anything else like it. I do think it's doubtful.

There is a thread here that says he didn't write it, you'd have to do a search,


28 Aug 08 - 05:27 PM (#2424816)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Forty Shades of Green - Origin Request
From: Brakn

I know he owned the copywright.


31 Aug 08 - 07:26 PM (#2427166)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Forty Shades of Green - Origin Request
From: Uncle Phil

The St. Patrick's Day gig story may be folklore. The story I've heard from several folks is Johnny Cash was inspired by looking down at a green patchwork of fields while flying between Irish gigs.

I'm always baffled by the notion that Forty Shades of Green is anything other than a song that Cash wrote. Obviously he was capable of writing it (member of Songwriters Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for singing songs he wrote) and it doesn't resemble a trad Irish song in form or content. That's not to say I don't like Forty Shades of Green. It's a nice song and I hope all of you get to hear Seamus Kennedy perform it live at least once before you die.
- Phil


24 Feb 11 - 05:29 PM (#3102207)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: GUEST

Noreen Kinney

I am from Ireland, and when I was living there in the 1950s, the expression to describe the Emerald Isle - Forty Shades of Green, was used in those days too, long before Johnny Cash wrote the song in the 1960s.


24 Feb 11 - 08:21 PM (#3102300)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: Chris in Portland

There was a BBC radio show on Cash a year ago. I believe it said that John originally thought his family came from Ireland, and so may have been inspired to write 40 Shades after a visit there. But he later found out his roots were really in Scotland .
There's a nice version by Rodney Crowell that Frank Hennessy plays on Celtic heartbeat, Radio Wales. E-mail Frank and I'd bet he'd play it again, and Frank may even find this thread.

Chris


24 Feb 11 - 10:07 PM (#3102340)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: maple_leaf_boy

(member of Songwriters Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for singing songs he wrote)
Also, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. It was announced last year that
he'll be inducted.


25 Feb 11 - 01:09 AM (#3102391)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: GUEST

Here's a link to a version I like with Roseanne Cash, Karen Matheson, Kate Rusby and a whole raft of musicans. We're talking uilleann pipes, a half-dozen fidders, and lap steel playing together in the band.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-kXrEisqb4


25 Feb 11 - 04:29 AM (#3102443)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: evansakes

There's a nice version by Rodney Crowell

Rodney duets with Paul Brady on a nice version recorded for 'Hands Across The Water', a benefit album for victims of the tsunami a few years back


25 Feb 11 - 04:52 AM (#3102455)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: banjoman

The best version is the original on an old 45. I dug it out & played it today and its still one of his best ever


25 Feb 11 - 06:58 AM (#3102525)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: GUEST

Sort of typical of an emigrant song i.e. written by an Irish person following their emigration to North America. Supposedly many 'Irish Ballads' were written in that way.


25 Feb 11 - 09:52 AM (#3102599)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: GUEST,Desi C

Yes indeed he did, there is a live recording, I think on You Tube, where he says so. He wrote it after his first visit to Ireland, though as someone else pointed out, the phrase '40 shades of Green, is an old saying


25 Feb 11 - 04:18 PM (#3102798)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: GUEST,Jane Ann Liston

I recall from 'Junior Choice' a song about an Irishman's car - was the name O'Rafferty?

As far as I can recall, the refrain included the lines:

'Oh, what a wonderful motor-car, t'was the greatest ever seen
It used to be black as my father's hat, now it's forty shades of green
On TV and on radio and in every public bar
The burning question of the day was O'Rafferty's motor-car'.

I think it may have been sung by the same man who rendered 'Paddy McGinty's Goat' - was it Val Doonican?


25 Feb 11 - 04:38 PM (#3102809)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: GUEST,Curtis

Here he is saying he wrote it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0oTDS9ur_U


27 Feb 11 - 03:31 AM (#3103414)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: MartinRyan

Is this the first mention of Mudcat in the Irish "paper of record"?!

Click here

Regards
    The Irish Times - Saturday, February 26, 2011

    An Irishman's Diary

    Frank McNally

    TODAY is Johnny Cash’s birthday. Were he still with us, he’d be 79. But he’s not, so he can no longer clear up a lingering controversy that marks its 50th anniversary this year: the question of whether he really did write the ballad Forty Shades of Green. 

    “Controversy” may be an overstatement. He said he wrote it. He owned the copyright. He’s always credited as writer. And there’s no evidence he wasn’t. Despite all of which, the song seems fated to have its origins questioned, as on one of the most popular forums for such discussions, the website mudcat.org, where an old thread on the subject resurfaced yet again this week.

    The issue of its authorship is now half a century old, because so is the song. It first appeared in 1961 as a mere B-side on a single and, two years later, was among the titles rounded up for the compilation album Ring of Fire. 

    But no sooner had it been born than the popular assumption that it was older took off. Roseanne Cash recalls her father saying how, after performing it in Ireland soon afterwards, he was approached by an elderly man who congratulated him on his version of “that great old Irish folksong you sang there”.

    Cash responded that, actually, he had written it himself. Whereupon the man gently chastised him for telling fibs and insisted it was traditional. The singer only ended the argument by agreeing. He may have decided, wisely, that he was being paid a back-handed compliment.

    Of course, in the 1950s and 1960s especially, many old Irish songs were being dug up and refurbished for the folk revival. The Carter Family, into which Johnny Cash would marry, were among those who mined the vein. So did Bob Dylan, most famously in his anti-war ballad With God on our Side , which led to his mining licence being revoked by Dominic Behan.

    The Behan-Dylan feud demonstrates how murky song origins can be. Dylan used the same tune as Behan’s The Patriot Game. But so he might, because it was a traditional air that predated both men. And Dylan had supplied his own lyrics, just as Behan had done. None of which assuaged the latter, who insisted that the plagiarism extended to such things as song structure.

    Not that the air of Forty Shades of Green sounds even remotely traditional. The lyrics, on the other hand, could pass themselves off as being of earlier vintage. In fact, the song aside, it’s often suggested that the title at least was older, even though – for example – this newspaper’s archive is silent on the phrase for more than a century until its first mention in 1964.

    On that occasion, the subject was postage stamps. “There may not be forty shades of green on the Irish postage stamps issued last month, but they are certainly gay and colourful,” reported the paper. And the joking reference was clearly to the song, by then being covered by Ireland’s showbands.

    Cash’s ballad was, however, predated by a 1956 number (excuse the pun) called Forty Nine Shades of Green . He had probable heard this too, because it was by a prolific duo who wrote songs for Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, and many others. And it was recorded by the Ames Brothers, a quartet who had a long string of hits throughout the 1950s.

    But the degree to which it might have been an influence on Cash is highly questionable. Forty Nine Shades of Green had nothing to do with Ireland. It was a cheeky love song – about “Lulu, Queen of the Burlesque” – and it tapped the colour only for comic potential.

    Hence, the opening verse describes one of Lulu’s teasing dances, in which she removes endless layers of clothes, leading to the chorus: “She wore 49 shades of green, boy/Forty Nine shades of Green”. Verse two describes his friends’ envy about their relationship, with the chorus: “They turned 49 shades of green, boy/Forty nine shades of green.” The punch-line comes is verse three. Here, the singer’s boast that he would die for Lulu nearly becomes reality when she cooks their first meal and accidentally poisons him. Cue the chorus: “I turned forty-nine Shades of green, boy/Forty-nine shades of green.” In short, we can probably rule that song out of our inquiries as an influence on Cash, except perhaps for suggesting a title.

    Something that rings truer as an explanation for his ballad is that, at the time, he believed he had Irish ancestry. He was also generally besotted with this country. So much so that he decided to express his love for it in music, and – it is said – wrote the song with map in hand, so that he could pick place-names to suit the melody.

    This last detail would explain his impressive grasp of geography. In quick succession he mentions Dingle, Donaghadee, the river Shannon, Skibbereen, Tipperary town, and Dublin. Then, in need of two single-syllable end points on a north-south axis, he chooses “Cork” and “Larne”.

    For the Co Antrim port, this made for a rare appearance in the sentimental Irish song-book. Elsewhere, the town’s unlovely reputation spawned a well-known phrase for keeping a judiciously low profile, ie: “as low as a Larne Catholic”. But later in life, Johnny Cash discovered that his ancestry was mainly Scottish. So maybe in his classic Irish song he had already sensed the truth.

    In expressing a wish to walk to Larne, perhaps he was subconsciously heading for the ferry.


06 Dec 13 - 03:09 PM (#3582133)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: GUEST,tony.

in 1962 whilst on a holiday to ireland wih my pal and his family we visited either friends or relations of his father in a suburb of dublin. the lady of the house said her husband,a postman,had written the song forty shades of green. years later i read that johnny cash had written it. then quite recently i saw a video in which during a concert in dublin jc introduced the song as having been written by him and a female member of the audience shouted "oh no you didnt" the plot thickens!


12 Dec 13 - 02:35 PM (#3583635)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: GUEST,tony

i followed a link mentioned by guest curtis [see above}which led to a few you tube videos of jc introducing forty shades of green.in one he says he wrote the song in 1959,and in another he says he wrote it in 1961?????? methinks the lady heckler was on to something when she disputed his version during the dublin concert. does anyone know anything about a dublin postman who really may be the original composer? jc may have owned the copyright but......... tony


12 Dec 13 - 06:08 PM (#3583699)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: GUEST

'"Forty Shades of Green" is a well known song about Ireland. It was written by Johnny Cash in 1959 while on a trip to Ireland.[1] Contrary to popular belief, Cash did not invent the term 'forty shades of green', it had been used in Ireland many years before he wrote the song.
He released it as a B-side of The Rebel-Johnny Yuma released in 1961. It is also featured on two albums: 1. Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash, released on Columbia Records in 1963 and 2. Johnny Cash: The Great Lost Performance - Live at the Paramount Theatre, Asbury Park, New Jersey recorded live in 1990 and released in 2007.'

That may be the source of the confusion.


12 Dec 13 - 06:18 PM (#3583703)
Subject: RE: Origin: Forty Shades of Green (Johnny Cash)
From: GUEST

http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Forty-Shades-Of-Green-lyrics-Johnny-Cash/6E8824A18EDE247448256DEA000A6B20

That site has some history about the song.