Features

The Story Behind Johnny Cash's 'Ragged Old Flag'

(AP Photo/FILE)

Perhaps one of the biggest moments in American history can be traced back to 1974, when the country was glued to their television screens for updates on the Watergate scandal that ravaged Washington D.C. Following President Richard Nixon's resignation, Johnny Cash reacted with "Ragged Old Flag," using country music to expertly communicate what he was feeling.

Cash had met with Nixon at the White House two years prior and performed the anti-Vietnam War "What is Truth?" and the socially conscious "Man in Black" and "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" In 1974, Cash released a statement song yet again, showcasing his patriotism and faith in our country. "Ragged Old Flag" became extremely popular with fans and was a staple at Cash's shows. Cash would introduce the song with this opener at his concerts:

"I thank God for all the freedom we have in this country, I cherish them and treasure them - even the right to burn the flag. We also got the right to bear arms and if you burn my flag -- I'll shoot you."

The song was included on Cash's 1974 album of the same name, which featured "Lonesome to the Bone," "Pie in the Sky" and "King of the Hill." Every song was written by the singer except for "I'm a Worried Man" which was written by Cash and his wife June Carter Cash. "Ragged Old Flag" continues to be as relevant as ever. The song is regularly performed on Veterans Day and used to honor the armed forces.

"Ragged Old Flag" Lyrics

I walked through a county courthouse square

On a park bench an old man was sitting there

I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down

He said, no, it'll do for our little town

I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit

And that's a ragged old flag you got hanging on it

He said, have a seat, and I sat down

Is this the first time you've been to our little town?

I said, I think it is

He said, I don't like to brag

But we're kinda proud of that ragged old flag

You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when

Washington took it across the Delaware

And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key

Sat watching it writing say can you see

And it got a bad rip in New Orleans

With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams

And it almost fell at the Alamo

Beside the Texas flag, but she waved on though

She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville

And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill

There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg

And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag

On Flanders field in World War One

She got a big hole from a Bertha gun

She turned blood red in World War Two

She hung limp and low a time or two

She was in Korea and Vietnam

She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam

She waved from our ships upon the briny foam

And now they've about quit waving her back here at home

In her own good land here she's been abused

She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused

And the government for which she stands

Is scandalized throughout the land

And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin

But she's in good shape for the shape she's in

'Cause she's been through the fire before

And I believe she can take a whole lot more

So we raise her up every morning

We take her down every night

We don't let her touch the ground and we fold her up right

On second thought, I do like to brag

'Cause I'm mighty proud of that ragged old flag

Now Watch: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Johnny Cash

recommended for you

The Story Behind Johnny Cash's 'Ragged Old Flag'