What does Hurt mean?

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Johnny Cash: Hurt Meaning

Song Released: 2003

Hurt Lyrics

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become
My sweetest...


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    Sep 1st, 2013 9:11am report

    I think "my sweetest friend" is neither drugs, nor the loved ones, nor Jesus; it's himself (or maybe his physical body).

    I could have a better life with "My empire of dirt", but instead I'm injecting myself on this liar's chair. I might have promised and will promise to myself ("my sweetest friend") to turn my life around, but I haven't changed and I won't. (And that's why it's the LIAR's chair.)

    This desperation is implied in the last two lines of this verse: "I will let you down / I will make you hurt" meaning:

    I know I will let myself down and I will make myself hurt (back to the beginning of the circle).

    "You are someone else" meaning he has grown up/matured/changed, but "I am still right here" meaning the core/instincts/habits are still right there. In his case "the drug addiction is still right there".

    I like this interpretation a lot, because I'm sure many people (maybe every adult) had these feelings at some point in their lives: you want to make changes in your life, but you can't, you are desperate. You are who your are and you are stuck with it.

    In any case: GREAT LYRICS! And thanks to everybody who wrote their own interpretations. I was at a loss understanding the lyrics, before I visited this page. Now, I have an idea I like. :)


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    May 5th, 2009 5:05pm report

    I agree with the Jan 18th post. Yes, NIN's version had a different connotation, primarily that of self-loathing, self-harm, and drug addiction. Johnny Cash's version is, as said above, about the pain he endured through his life and his love/hate relationship with his fame. Johnny, however, was not really "lonely" in the end. Even though they had their problems throughout the years, he had June Carter. He loved her more than anything. Thus, after her death, he became severely depressed. It's been proven that after the loss of a loved one so close, a person will usually "give up" (die) in the near future afterward. My great grandmother and great great grandfather both died very shortly after losing their spouses. Therefor, I truly believe that, if not for the loss of June, Johnny would still be alive today. Essentially, the heartache was the last "nail in the coffin" so to speak.


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    Aug 11th, 2008 8:31am report

    Seeing as the song was recorded well before his wife died, I don't think that is the inspiration. The NIN version is much more directly about drugs (heroin to be specific). For Cash, the inflection is put more on the idea of mortality, getting old and, slowly, watching your friends die. The key line is 'everyone I know...goes away...in the end'. The video has him on a throne, yes, but more importantly it 'takes place' in the Johnny Cash Museum, symbolizing a type of 'storehouse of memory'. If you look closely much of the setting contains old pictures of him performing with Elvis, etc. So what is clear in the song, and moreso in the video is the idea of a retrospective on your life, memory in the shadow of inevitable death. The acceptance of your life, and a bit of foreboding for the inevitable.


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    Jul 31st, 7:48pm report

    Its all about life and what your fans want (you) to be. Performers are people with a life and fans just dont understand this unless they have been there and lived this way. So much pain and problems and if someone starts suffering from this its so easy to just quit suffering with whatever they choose to stop suffering with, Look at all the musicians who have died at the age of 27, if that isnt the weirdest thing, , what is with this age of dying at 27, Is there a real place called (The Crossroads) and the quote the (devil) takes your soul at age 27? Then the hurting stops, But Johnny Cash really nails this song.R.I.P Johnny. j.


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    May 28th, 5:49am report

    I think when people in the music industry get so high up they are too far gone to come back to the truth being lost.searching for the answer they know they can no longer receive because it was traded for fortune and fame.drugs seems to be the only relief for their mortal bodies while their souls are lost.what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world in exchange for his soul.HASATAN himself wanted the SON to bow down to him and worship him for the world.so HASATAN is in the entertainment business. he hates us all and when we follow him death is the end.i believe thats what mr cash is saying in this song.the more HASATAN gives you the more of yourself he wants.until there is nothing left or until you get tired of him.how can anyone believe or trust HASATAN he is a liar and has been one from the beginning.he tricks people and when ask to give it all up or blasphemed against the FATHER we all know rather we believe in the FATHER or not you blaspheme thats it.HASATAN is not stupid he has to have it in blood.


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    Jan 15th, 2017 1:38am report

    "If I could start again
    a million miles away
    I would keep myself
    I would find a way"

    If he could start his life over he would stay far away from people that he loved so that he could not make them hurt.

    Something that I wish my boyfriend would've done for me.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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    Nov 28th, 2016 11:22pm report

    Johnny Cash is a legend for creating something very few people could understand. That feeling of being nothing and a nobody. I used to feel like that. Hint that is what the song hurt is about.


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    Jun 21st, 2016 6:11pm report

    And you could have it all,
    My empire of dirt,
    I will let you down,
    I will make you hurt,

    I find this part particularly poignant and here is 'my' interpretation:

    At this point in the video Cash starts pouring the wine out as if handing over his "empire of dirt" [all he has] to Christ.

    It then goes on to show Christ taking a hit with a hammer between different points of Cash's care-free life as if Christ takes the pain for each of Cash's missteps.

    Cash goes on to say if he could do it all again, a million miles from where he walked, he would find a way to be better.


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    Apr 5th, 2016 4:48am report

    This cover and Carl Sagan's "Pale blue dot" are, in my opinion, two of the greatest recordings ever produced by mankind,I feel that we don't have the right words or definitions gravitas can't even begin to describe the emotional power behind this cover. The only word that keeps coming to mind is "fuck."


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    Jun 16th, 2015 6:14pm report

    Johnny Cash was person who probably suffered from childhood trauma/abuse.

    he therefore had a very low self esteem, he tried to escape the pain through drugs, and he developed a false self who was charismatic, and very much full of positive feelings for himself.

    But deep down inside he felt he was nothing, despite his huge success and all his fame and fortune.

    His reality of his true self image was one of a low down nobody. With no real self.

    He created a new self with fame and fortune and his narcissistic self took over , he was king and everyone loved him.

    But he could not love himself for real. He was without a true identity which he felt was worthy of love.

    His fans were his redemption, but in the end he still feels worthless, and understands his whole life was based on a gale ideal of who he wanted to believe he could be ie famous, loving and successful.

    His life was a confabulation , because , in the end he still had to deal with his feeling of low self worth and his true nature was not loving and good and honourable.

    He hurt all those who loved him, he was dirt, his empire turned to dirt.

    In the end he had to face the terrible life of destruction he created for himself and those he loved, or tried to love.

    "What have I become" he says, "everyone goes away" ,"goes away."


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    Jan 11th, 2015 1:31am report

    Thank you for helping me understand the song. He lived a tragic life, but he also was beloved by everyone. I'm 13 and he's my favorite singer and I mainly listen to his music


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    Jul 26th, 2014 7:15am report

    The song HURT was recorded in 1995 by the group 9" nails. The lyrics as well Mr. Cash's rendition make the song fee like a retrospective on his life. We all know Johnny Cash was a great performer. He recorded over eighty albums to wit.


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    May 4th, 2014 5:08am report

    To me:

    "And you could have it all.
    My Empire of Dirt".

    Means: all the material possessions of the world are meaningless unless you have people to share your life with. Also all material possessions are worthless when offering them to God- it really touched me


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    Jan 26th, 2013 1:18am report

    I don't know why everybody keep trying to find a meaning for this song, when the only person who could do it is the author,Trent Reznor. Of course, anyone can have your own interpretation, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be the same as the author's song.
    Only the author can explain the real meaning of the song, 'cause he's the only one who knows what he was feeling or trying to express when he wrote the song, all the rest is pure especulation.


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    Jan 5th, 2013 1:26pm report

    I love that song but I feel bad for Johnny cash I know him when my dad worked with Johnny


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    May 18th, 2012 5:13am report

    There seems to be a note of regret through
    the whole song. We have to deal with painful memories and not repress them with
    drugs. We must find a way to deal with the
    pain. When we are young we tend to disregard the consequences of emotional pain we tend to be busy projecting our issues onto the outside world. But when we become old it seems too much to deal with anyway. I like the end when he sings "I will keep myself"... I take it as self-acceptance. I wish I had the ability to start all over again... I will still keep myself as I am... but I will also be able to heal the pain... and
    healing is all about aelf-acceptance anyway all abou love.


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    Apr 25th, 2012 4:23pm report

    To me its about his addiction, the pain he caused two wives, and children. All the bad things he did tore apart his friends and family. His regrets on the choices he made in life. Nearing his death he wishes he could of done it better with his life choices. Love this song, and Cash. I think the lyrics are pretty straight forward.


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    Nov 8th, 2011 11:27am report

    This song is a meaningful, sad, beautiful song that describes his life in only a few minutes.
    Johnny tells the story of his life, getting to the point that hes upset over the fact that he feels alone in the world. he looks back in his past and he thinks how he could've changed everything. Drugs, Relationhips, Career.
    "A million miles away" Meaning that if he had the chance to start again he would be away from the distractions of his life that he has at the time of his career.

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