It can be hard for anyone to step out from a famous parent's shadow. And when you're a country singer whose father happens to be Johnny Cash ... well, that's a pretty big shadow.
Rosanne Cash, though, has built a career that's entirely her own. A master of duets, cover songs and originals alike, the singer-songwriter has earned 10 No. 1 hits and a handful of Grammy Awards throughout her career, which has spanned five decades. Such success makes going through her songs to choose the 10 best quite difficult ... but it's fun to try.
Below, readers will find The Boot's Top 10 Rosanne Cash Songs list.
"I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me"From 'Rhythm & Romance' (1985)
“I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me” received plenty of praise: The first single from Rhythm & Romance, it hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and won Best Country Vocal Performance, Female at the Grammy Awards.
“Just when I think that I can make it without you / You come ‘round and say you want me now," Cash sings in this song. "You tell me don’t leave, and I believe you / Why can’t you see just how much I need you?”
As an added bonus, the music video for "I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me" -- which, like the song, feels a little more “sad pop” than country -- features some amazing ‘80s hair ... and shoulder pads!
"It's Such a Small World"From Rodney Crowell's 'Diamonds & Dirt' (1988)
Cash and Rodney Crowell recorded this song, released as the lead single from Crowell’s 1988 album Diamonds & Dirt, as a duet. It tells the story of a former couple that reunites for just one night: “I’ll be gone again come morning / Like I’ve always done," they sing. "But to see you tonight / Makes everything right / It’s such a small world.” In the song, the man leaves in the morning ... but in its accompanying music video, he returns; Crowell and Cash -- who were married at the time -- used footage from their honeymoon in the music video.
"If You Change Your Mind"From 'King's Record Shop' (1987)
Cash co-wrote “If You Change Your Mind” with Hank DeVito. The song -- an ‘80s country song if there ever was one -- is about a spurned lover insisting that she’ll always be there if her ex changes his mind: “And when your heart’s in doubt / And things aren’t working out / I can be the one who makes you happy," Cash sings. "Call me on the telephone / Darling, I’m always home / If you ever change your mind.” Today, the kids call that being “thirsty;" back then, they just called it Cash’s ninth No. 1 hit.
"Never Be You"From 'Rhythm & Romance' (1985)
Tom Petty and Benmont Tench are the writers behind this song, which was covered and recorded by Cash on her 1985 album Rhythm & Romance. Fun fact: Maria McKee’s recording of “Never Be You” appears on the soundtrack for the film Streets of Fire, but Cash also recorded a version of the song for the movie. While Cash's version wasn't used, it was eventually released on her 2005 album The Very Best of Rosanne Cash.
"The Way We Make a Broken Heart"From 'King's Record Shop' (1987)
Cash is a queen of covers … and this song is one she covered twice. Cash and John Hiatt (who wrote the song) recorded a cover of it in 1983; then, in 1987, she covered it again -- and this time, it went all the way to No. 1. “The Way We Make a Broken Heart” was originally recorded by Ry Cooder.
"Blue Moon With Heartache"From 'Seven Year Ache' (1981)
You’d never guess it from the title, but "Blue Moon With Heartache" is another sad song (oh, wait ...). While a lot of Cash’s songs about heartbreak pair sad lyrics with upbeat music, this one goes for somber all the way through.
"I'll play the victim for you honey, but not for free," Cash sings in "Blue Moon With Heartache. "I run into that heartache just like a wall / And act like nothing happened to me, nothing at all."
Something that’s not sad? This song became Cash’s third No. 1 -- and all three came from her 1981 breakout album Seven Year Ache. The album, so important to Cash’s career, has since been re-released three times.
"Sea of Heartbreak"From 'The List' (2009)
Even though Bruce Springsteen sings more about being on the road than being at sea, he had no problem making that small change for this duet with Cash. Plenty of musicians have covered this Paul Hampton / Hal David tune (originally recorded by Don Gibson), including Johnny Cash, but this version works so well because these two are great at sounding lonely together.
"Seven Year Ache"From 'Seven Year Ache' (1981)
“Seven Year Ache” was the lead single from Cash’s 1981 album of the same name; it was also her first No. 1 hit. The song -- and the album -- helped launch her long career, and had some crossover success. Rodney Crowell, Cash's then-husband, produced Seven Year Ache.
"September When It Comes"From 'Rules of Travel' (2003)
“September When it Comes” is one of the few times that fans get to hear Rosanne Cash sing with her father, Johnny Cash -- and this song is particularly poignant, as it's one of the last recordings that the elder Cash made before he died.
"There’s a light inside the darkened room / A footstep on the stair / A door that I forever close / To leave those memories there," "September When It Comes" goes. "So when the shadows link them / Into an evening sun / Well, first there’s summer, then I’ll let you in / September when it comes."
The Cashes' voices just seem made to sing together. Rules of Travel, the album on which "September When It Comes" appears, was nominated for a Best Contemporary Folk Album at the Grammy Awards.
"A Feather's Not a Bird"From 'The River & the Thread' (2014)
With all due respect to Cash’s impressive early catalog, it’s this song from her most recent album, The River & the Thread, that we’re most in love with. Lyrics that read like poetry ("A feather’s not a bird / The rain is not the sea / A stone is not a mountain / But a river runs through me")? Check. A dark undercurrent reminiscent of her father? Check. Vocals that sound as good as they ever have? Check. It’s no wonder that this song won the Best American Roots Song and Best American Roots Performance at the Grammy Awards.