Monday, May 28, 2012

Story Songs: A Boy Named Sue

We all know folks who don't like their names. There's not much they can do about it unless they want to have it legally changed but that often seems like too much trouble. Some simply go by nicknames or stage names to avoid any embarrassment. 

The legendary Johnny Cash sang about a guy getting stuck with a sissy name by a deadbeat dad in Shel Silverstein's hilarious "A Boy Named Sue." It won a Grammy Award for Best Country Male Vocal Performance in 1969.

In the story, the boy suffers taunts and teases while growing up because of his name. When he gets older, he sets out to find his father and seek revenge for the personal injustice.

"Well, he must o' thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a' lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named 'Sue."'

He finally finds his father in a bar in Gatlingburg, Tenn., and it turns into a knockdown, dragout fight. And when it's over, the son discovers why his father named him Sue.

"And he said: 'Son, this world is rough
And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you'd have to get tough or die
And it's the name that helped to make you strong."'

While the son gains some respect for his father in the end, that doesn't mean he likes the name as he proclaims in the last two lines:

"And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!"
 For more about Johnny Cash, visit To learn more about Shel Silverstein, a noted children's author, cartoonist, and poet, go to

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