The Song Johnny Cash Was Accused Of Stealing

There are many controversies revolving around rip-off accusations in music history. Probably one of the most famous names who had dealt with lots of legal issues due to this was Led Zeppelin. Their most successful and widely-known hit ‘Stairway To Heaven’ was accused of being a rip-off of Spirit’s ‘Taurus.’ Although Zeppelin got away with it as the court believed this was solely inspiration, they still struggled with numerous lawsuits by other artists.

However, sometimes these claims don’t end up in legal battles. Johnny Cash was one of those who were accused of ripping off a song, but his story didn’t turn out a court case or cause any long-lasting feuds. It was one of Cash’s fans who blamed him for ripping off an old Irish melody. In a 1988 interview, Cash revealed the story’s details and the song which caused him to be accused of stealing.

Johnny Cash joined the Late Late Show with Gay Byrne in 1988 backstage in his dressing room at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, and revealed how he wrote the song ‘Forty Shades Of Green.’ According to the musician, he penned the track while looking at an Ireland map, rhyming the towns that caught his attention.

“I will sing you a little bit of a song I wrote in 1959,” Johnny Cash told the host Gay Byrne. He then noted, “And when you hear the lyrics, you’ll know that I had a road map of Ireland in my lap because I was looking at the names of the towns and rhyming all of the towns. And then I got to think, ‘What a great song! How great to hear these names of some of these towns in a song.’ So I finally came up with a melody and put it down. I called it ‘Forty Shades Of Green.’”

After that, Cash remembered when one of his fans visited him backstage after one of his then-recent concerts. According to the musician, this old man told him that ‘Forty Shades Of Green’ was actually an old Irish melody. Although Cash insisted he wrote the song, he couldn’t make the fan believe him. Afterward, Cash decided to ask him when he first heard ‘Forty Shades Of Green’ and found out that the fan listened to it in 1959, the year he wrote the song.

“I did a concert recently,” Johnny Cash said. He then continued, “An old man came up to me backstage and said that ‘Forty Shades Of Green’ is a fine old Irish melody. I said, ‘No, I wrote that!’ He said, ‘No, no, no, I’ve heard that for years.’ I said, ‘Well, when did you first hear it?’ He said, ‘1959.’ I said, ‘That’s when I wrote it.’”

So, Johnny Cash didn’t steal anything from an old Irish song, but one of his fans believed otherwise. Little did the fan know that Cash was actually the one who wrote the song he was talking about. Apparently, Cash’s story didn’t involve any legal troubles or feuds; it was actually a hilarious story that still makes us smile to this day.