History

Watch Johnny Cash’s Patriotic Performance of ‘Ragged Old Flag’

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During this Memorial Day weekend, it’s the perfect time to look back on one of Johnny Cash’s most patriotic releases ever.

In this vintage performance footage, Cash addresses the crowd and discusses how he appreciates the freedom he has even more after he returns from visiting overseas.

“I thank God for all the freedoms we’ve got in this country, even the rights to burn the flag.” Cash’s words were met with a mixed response from the crowd, who were shocked by his apparent support of dishonoring his own country. After hushing the vocal audience, he finished his thought.

“We’ve also got the right to bear arms, and if you burn my flag, I’m gonna shoot you.” As soon as the words roll out of his mouth, the crowd explodes in a wave of screams and applause. He immediately rolls into his 1975 song, “Ragged Old Flag,” which talks about the meaning and history behind the American flag.

The song tells the story of a conversation between a local man and a visitor, who carelessly insults their town square the ragged American flag.

“She’s getting threadbare and she’s 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,” Cash sings powerfully.

It’s an emotional and meaningful track that perfectly describes the deep personal meaning that many Americans find when they see an American flag blowing in the wind.