“Folsom Prison Blues”

This morning I heard a train whistle off in the distance.

I’ve spoken on more than one occasion about the love of Johnny Cash I inherited from my father. Such an incredible artist and writer. He was raw and rough and ready, with a poetic depth that belied his humble origins.

Perhaps his most famous and arguably most poetic song is the classic “Folsom Prison Blues.”

I’ll resist the urge to break down the imagery of these brilliant lyrics, but a ‘lonely whistle’ figures prominently throughout.

I was going about my normal weekday routine. Dropped my daughter at school, grabbed a quick breakfast, and then made my way to our local park to walk off breakfast and hopefully the extra I have stored up for winter.

It was a cool morning, the dew on the grass having a frosty glint. The park was mostly empty as I pulled into a parking spot. As I got out of my car, I heard the sound of a distant train.

That lonely whistle cut right through me.

So many memories collided at once. My Dad and Johnny Cash and Folsom Prison Blues were all vying for attention.

I put in my ear buds as I prepared to walk my daily miles. I usually listen to whatever record that has captured my imagination. Today there could be only one choice.

Hello…I’m Johnny Cash.

The roar of the inmates rolled through my ears as the now classic guitar riff kicked off, Johnny slinging each phrase like a prizefighter. By the end of the song you believe he did shoot a man just to watch him die.

When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry.

I wish I could explain to my kids what the sound of a train whistle means to me. I wish I could understand why it moves me the way it does.

On my ‘Spheres of Influence’ project, I gave a nod to this tune by including the sound of a train whistle at the beginning of “People Get Ready,” another great train song and sung to perfection by my pal Tony Wachter.

For Johnny, that whistle was the reminder of the crime that put his character in prison. It also represented the sound that would ‘blow his blues away’ as the train that would carry him far from Folsom Prison rolls into the sunset.

Crime and punishment…freedom and redemption. Fall and Grace.

This morning I heard a train whistle off in the distance.

I hung my head and cried.

Thankful for the gift of this day…