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"It was like someone kissing your girlfriend": Trent Reznor on first hearing Johnny Cash's Hurt

It's 19 years since Johnny Cash passed away. Rolling Stone paid tribute at the time, writing "Cash was an original: a rebellious, unrelentingly entertaining and imposing presence," a sentiment few could disagree with, and soon after the music world gathered for a star-studded tribute concert (below).

"Having Johnny Cash, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, want to cover your song, that's something that matters to me"

But for many (at the time) younger music fans, it was the Man In Black's unflinchingly sparse 2002 cover of Nine Inch Nails' Hurt that made them sit up and take notice of the country legend.

Hurt originally debuted on The Downward Spiral, Nine Inch Nails' 1994 album, before Cash performed it on the 4th of his epic American Recording series of albums, under the guidance of uber-producer Rick Rubin.

In 2008, Trent Reznor spoke to British tabloid The Sun about his first hearing of Cash's spine-tinglingly emotive version.

"I'd been friends with Rick Rubin for several years," he said at the time. "He called me to ask how I'd feel if Johnny Cash covered Hurt. 

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Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor

(Image credit: Natasha Moustache/WireImage)

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"I said I'd be very flattered but was given no indication it would actually be recorded.

"Two weeks went by. Then I got a CD in the post. I listened to it and it was very strange. It was this other person inhabiting my most personal song.

"I'd known where I was when I wrote it. I know what I was thinking about. I know how I felt. Hearing it was like someone kissing your girlfriend. It felt invasive."

It was the moving video, though, that made it all fall into place for the Nine Inch Nails star: "It really, really made sense and I thought what a powerful piece of art.

"I never got to meet Johnny but I'm happy I contributed the way I did. It felt like a warm hug. I have goosebumps right now thinking about it.

"Having Johnny Cash, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, want to cover your song, that's something that matters to me. It's not so much what other people think but the fact that this guy felt that it was worthy of interpreting.

"He said afterwards it was a song that sounds like one he would have written in the '60s and that's wonderful".

Will Groves
Editor-in-chief

I'm lucky enough to be MusicRadar's Editor-in-chief while being, by some considerable distance, the least proficient musician on the editorial team. An undeniably ropey but occasionally enthusiastic drummer, I've worked on the world's greatest music making website in one capacity or another since its launch in 2007. I hope you enjoy the site - we do.