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

[Chorus:]
What have I become
My sweetest...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    anonymous
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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.



  2. 2TOP RATED

    anonymous
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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. :)



  3. 3TOP RATED

    anonymous
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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."



  4.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 20th, 20:33 report


    I think this song is the musings of an old man who regrets the life he lived...

    As his friends pass away and death approaches him he is realizing how much he lied to himself over the years. He realizes that he built an "empire of dirt" and valued all the wrong things. Now he feels he has nothing but pain. "I focus on the pain, the only thing that's real". He still tries to numb his pain with drugs but it is futile ("the needle tears a hole, the old familiar sting. Try to kill it all away but I remember everything").

    The drugs can be a metaphor for any kind of unhealthy escapism... fame, food, workaholism, pornography, fake friends, game addiction for the young generation, etc. If you aren't careful you will waste your life like he did and have an empire of dirt left behind.

    This song makes me think of Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development. Our development can be broken into different stages, starting when we are born and ending when we die. https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html. When Johnny Cash sang this he was at the final stage of his development - ego integrity vs. despair - and he felt despair.

    "Everyone I know goes away in the end", "You are someone else, I am still right here" means all the people who he once used as comfort for his ego have grown past admiring him, but he has not grown with them. He was likely referring to his fans and the people who orbited him when he was popular. But now they've stopped fussing over him and he sees how little he has without their adulation.

    "I wear this crown of thorns upon my Liar's chair. Full of broken thoughts I cannot repair." During his life he became a liar, to others but first to himself. He deluded himself that he was proud of who he was and living his best life, when really he was just escaping from the life he wanted. The thing about a crown of thorns is that it slowly tears away at your head until it gets into your skull and destroys your ability to think straight again. After years of deluding himself he realizes his thoughts, his entire way of seeing the world is "broken", and his brain has lost the ability to fix it. The crown of thorns could also be his dementia.

    "If I could start again, a million miles away, I would keep myself, I would find a way." The moral of the story is that Johnny didn't hold on hard to himself. Likely, he was so caught up in receiving external validation and escaping from his pain ("I focus on the pain") that he couldn't get in touch with his inner self and build a life he valued. He built an empire based on shallow validation of his stage self, instead of solid connections based on an appreciation of his true self. He lost himself to dirt and if he could have his time again, he would do his life differently and be honest with himself (instead of kidding himself on the Liar's Chair and doing drugs). From that he would be able to build a real empire instead of a dirt castle.



  5.  

    sleepjunkie_
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    Aug 15th, 8:20am report


    I think that when he's talking about being hurt its regret. He hade fame, he had money he had everything anyone could ever want. But he still wasn't happy because in the end its still materials. And everything that he held dear to his heart left, taken away by time.

    As someone else said earlier he's shown on a "throne". All his past glory is shown in the pictures. And specially when he says "You could have it all... My empire of dirt" its clear that all this that he has means nothing in the longer run. Its just really sad that he couldn't find happiness despite doing everything he could.

    Hope you're safe and happy wherever you are Johhny.



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 4th, 7:51pm report


    My interpretation--it's the Liar's Chair--We are all sinners/and liars--it's beautiful how true it is to admit to be a liar--before GOD-before you die--which is true when you meet your maker



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 11th, 6:59pm report


    The outro says it all. If I could start over, I would keep myself.it was written as a song about losing yourself to addiction. Jonny's version was more relatable. It was about losing yourself to your base self.

    The verse is always the voice of the protagonist. The chorus is always the voice of the "other". Hurt violates this slightly. "What have I become"? Is the voice of the protagonist. Had it been the same voice throughout it would have been, "what have I become, my sweetest friend"? But, "my sweetest friend" was the beginning of the answer to the protagonist's question.

    Protagonist, verse 1:
    I try to escape my pain.

    What have I done?

    Base self, chorus:
    I will steal your best self, just as I do to most people.

    Protagonist, verse 2:
    Crown and thrown, trappings of misspent life or transient pleasures.

    You are not me, I am me.

    Protagonist, outro:
    If I could start over, I wouldn't lose myself.



  8.  

    anonymous
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    May 20th, 5:11pm report


    I have known this song for a long time but up untill now i just understood it the pure pain of it goes right through me yes i am hurt



  9.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 2nd, 4:25pm report


    Hurt was released by Johnny Cash on American IV in November, 2002. Six month later, his beloved wife of 35 years, June Carter Cash passed in May 2003. Johnny passed in September 2003.
    Hurt was released by Johnny Cash on American IV in November, 2002. Six month later, his beloved wife of 35 years, June Carter Cash passed in May 2003. Johnny passed in September 2003.

    “Hurt” is an elegy recorded by a man facing his own mortality. Every line reveals the depth of Cash’s reflections and his private reckoning.

    Diabetes consuming his body. Time running out on his remaining earthly days, his strength dissipated and spent. And his regret for the things he did, and failed to do consuming all his thoughts.

    The final stanza reveals forlorn hope that granted one more turn he would be better and make things better for both of them: “If I could start again; A million miles away; I would keep myself; I would find a way.”



  10.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 2nd, 4:23pm report


    Hurt was released by Johnny Cash on American IV in November, 2002. Six month later, his beloved wife of 35 years, June Carter Cash passed in May 2003. Johnny passed in September 2003.

    “Hurt” is an elegy recoded by a man facing his own mortality.

    Every line reveals the depth of Cash’s reflections and his private reckoning.

    Diabeties consuming his body. Time running out on his remaining earthly days, his strength disipated and spent.

    And his regret for the things he did, and failed to do consuming all his thoughts.

    The final stanza reveals the forlone hope that granted one more turn he would be better and make things better for both of them: “If I could start again; A million miles away; I would keep myself; I would find a way.”



  11.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 22nd, 2019 7:42am report


    I sing this song to my baby daughter at least once a week. I totally feel I can relate to it and it makes sense that it may have been written for the writers off spring. Impact of a parent who’s damaged goods! Great lyrics with a Raw vibe!



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 4th, 2019 2:13am report


    im 13 years old and for the first time I listened I understood it.i cried.

    I understood everything, his pain and I'm every time thinking at this song.

    Maybe trying to don't make the same mistake >?



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 15th, 2018 6:04pm report


    It’s not Johnny’s song. It was written by Trent Reznor for the NiN album ‘The downward spiral’ This song is about realising consequence and regret. It sends a powerful message that we should all proceed through life wisely, because there is nothing worse than being stuck with a label, a pain, a sickness, or a death, that we know beforehand will leave us only wishing things had been different and that we could change the choices we made. Explaining the self-loathing nature of the songs on. Trent’s song not Johnny’s song. However, JC does a lovely cover, even Trent was taken aback.



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 24th, 2018 1:16am report


    By the looks of these comments no one has the slightest idea that johnny cash was a drug addict/IV drug user. All the other ideas of what the song meant was great, but if you actually know a thing or two about the artist you'll know it's not about the majority of what you're typing paragraphs about. To keep it simple. The song is about the following;
    1. Drugs/drug addiction
    2. Self worth
    3. Depression
    4. How drugs took a toll on himself and those around him.
    5. Being a "worthless junkie", and the feelings that come with it.



  15.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jan 24th, 2018 1:14am report


    By the looks of these comments no one has the slightest idea that johnny cash was a drug addict/IV drug user. All the other ideas of what the song meant was great, but if you actually know a thing or two about the artist you'll know it's not about the majority of what you're typing paragraphs about. To keep it simple. The song is about the following;
    1. Drugs/drug addiction
    2. Self worth
    3. Depression
    4. How drugs took a toll on himself and those around him.
    5. Being a "worthless junkie", and the feelings that come with it.



  16.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 26th, 2017 11:01am report


    I assume the last lines "I would keep myself, I would find a way" means he would still make the same choices even if given another chance.

    He is who he is and can't change himself. He knows that no matter what he would have still hurt the people in his life. All he can do lament the sort of person he is.



  17.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 31st, 2017 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.



  18.  

    anonymous
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    May 28th, 2017 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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