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BELSHAZZAR (John R. Cash)




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© 1964 Southwind Music, Inc.
Covered by Bob Dylan on the unreleased Basement Tapes, West Saugerties, NY, May-Jun 1967.


My brother Roy introduced me to two mechanic friends, Marshall Grant who played bass and Luther Perkins who played electric guitar.... I sang all the country songs that were popular, all the old ones that suited my voice, and Marshall would join in singing tenor on the gospel songs. He knew them all.... Luther Perkins... was the son of a Baptist preacher from Mississippi. So it was only natural that he was at home with those songs.

It was fitting that our first public appearance was a performance in a church in North Memphis.... I sang three or four gospel songs, then introduced one I had written myself called "Belshazzar." The response to my songs that night made me feel a door had opened....

The big door I had my eye on was Sun Record Company, where Elvis Presley had recently started.... Marshall and Luther met me at Sun Records, and I sang all day -- Hank Snow songs, Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Tubb, the old ones, the new ones, and finally my own.
Though he had discouraged it earlier, the first one of my songs I sang was "Belshazzar," and Sam [Phillips] recorded it on tape. Then I sang other songs of mine, "Hey Porter" and "Folsom Prison Blues."

Johnny Cash, Man in Black, Grand Rapids, MI, 1975, pp. 72-75.


ORIGINAL JOHNNY CASH LYRICS,

transcribed by Manfred Helfert.


Well, the bible tells us about a man
Who ruled Babylon and all its land.
Around the city, he built a wall
And declared that Babylon would never fall.

He had concubines and wives,
He called his Babylon "Paradise."
On his throne he drank and ate,
but for Belshazar it was gettin' late.

For he was weighed in the balance and found wanting,
His kingdom was divided, couldn't stand.
He was weighed in the balance and found wanting,
His houses were built upon the sand.

Well, the people feasted and drank their wine
And praised the false gods of his time.
All holy things they scorned and mocked,
But suddenly all their mocking stopped.
For on the wall, there appeared a hand,
Nothin' else, there was no man.
In blood the hand began to write,
And Belshazar couldn't hide his fright.

For he was weighed in the balance and found wanting,
His kingdom was divided, couldn't stand.
He was weighed in the balance and found wanting,
His houses were built upon the sand.

Well, no one around could understand
What was written by the mystic hand.
Belshazar tried, but couldn't find
A man who could give him peace of mind.
But Daniel, the prophet, a man of God,
He saw the writing on the wall in blood.
Belshazar asked him what it said,
And Daniel turned to the wall and read:

"My friend, you're weighed in the balance and found wanting,
Your kingdom is divided, it can't stand.
You're weighed in the balance and found wanting,
Your houses are built upon the sand."


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