Which Version Of “Hurt” Would You Prefer?
Nine Inch Nails versus Johnny Cash
The song “Hurt” written by Trent Reznor and originally performed by his band Nine Inch Nails is a melancholy, haunting song. Nine Inch Nails’ version was recorded in 1994 and rerecorded and released by Johnny Cash in 2002. Each of the performers has a style, which some people would argue is at opposite ends of the spectrum of popular music; one is what is referred to as “Industrial Rock”, the other is country. Indeed, the musical genres are diverse; however, the song “Hurt” transcends the boundaries between old and new, hard and soft, and especially the differences and similarities between these men.
Nine Inch Nails is known for their industrial rock sound which combines synthesizers and percussion to produce sounds that remind you of a steel yard in Pennsylvania. This is probably a testament to the fact that the bands’ lead singer, Trent Reznor was born and raised near those steel yards (“The Nine Inch Nails Wiki,” 2012). Johnny Cash’s version speaks to those familiar with growing up during a rough time or not having much; people considered the down-trodden. Growing up in a religious family in Arkansas seems ingrained in the way Cash performs the song. Johnny lived a hard life on a cotton farm (“Johnny Cash,” 2012).
Reznor and Cash both graduated from high school. Cash set his sights on the United States Air Force while Reznor decided to go to college to study production. Cash was seeing the world in 1950; he was assigned to Germany, specializing in Morse code used to spy on the Soviets. It was Johnny Cash who would be the first radio operator to pick up the news of Joseph Stalin’s death (“Johnny Cash,” 2012). On the other hand, Reznor dropped out of college to pursue a career in music thus changing the course of his professional life as a singer while continuing to exercise his knowledge of production. Reznor is not only a performer; he regularly produces records for other artists (“The Nine Inch Nails Wiki,” 2012).
The story goes that Cash’s record producer, called and asked Reznor for permission to “cover the song ‘Hurt’.” Sharples states, “It was as if Trent Reznor unconsciously wrote it for Mr. Cash” (2011). Trent Reznor was flattered that someone with Johnny’s musical talent and long-standing status in the music world would even be interested in interpreting his song. When Trent first heard the final copy of Johnny’s version, Trent stated, “. . .it felt like somebody kissed your girlfriend” (“The Nine Inch Nails Wiki,” 2012). According to Sharples, it would be some four months later that Trent and his music team would see Johnny’s video for the song. It was then that “Reznor was flattered, honored, and moved to tears by the results” (2011). Reznor says. "By the end I was really on the verge of tears. There was, like, this moist clearing of our throats and then, 'Uh, OK, let's get some coffee.'' (Sharples, 2011).