“Hurt” is taken from Nine Inch Nails’ second studio album, “The Downward Spiral” (1994), and was written by Trent Reznor. It was released on April 17, 1995, as a promotional single from the album. In 2002, Johnny Cash covered Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” to commercial and critical acclaim. Reznor praised Cash’s interpretation of the song for its “sincerity and meaning”, going so far as to say “that song isn’t mine anymore”.
But, legendary producer Rick Rubin has now told the BBC that Johnny Cash didn’t want to record “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails at first. It weren’t the lyrics that Cash didn’t like, it was the aggressive, rock nature of the original version.
Rubin: “I played him the song first, and Johnny just looked at me like I was insane, because the Nine Inch Nails version of the song is very noisy, aggressive… and Johnny was wary.” Rubin managed to change his mind by making a demo with the same arrangement that Cash would ultimately use: “I think I did a demo where I had a guitar player play it, and I said the words the way I imagined him saying it, and then when he heard the lyrics, and he heard the format of what it could be, he said, ‘Let’s try it.'”
During the last stage of his career, Cash covered songs by contemporary rock artists; among his most notable covers were “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails of course but also “Rusty Cage” by Soundgarden, and “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode.
Below are the two versions.
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