"A Boy Named Sue" is a song written by Shel Silverstein that was made popular by Johnny Cash. Cash was at the height of his popularity when he recorded the song live at California's San Quentin State Prison at a concert on February 24, 1969. The concert was filmed by Granada Television for later television broadcast. The audio of the concert was later released on Cash's At San Quentin album. Cash also performed the song (with comical variations on the original performance) in December 1969 at Madison Square Garden. The song became Cash's biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and his only top ten single there, spending three weeks at #2 in 1969, held out of the top spot by "Honky Tonk Women" by The Rolling Stones. The track also topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs and Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks charts that same year and was certified Gold on August 14, 1969 by the RIAA.
Shel Silverstein's recording was released the same year as "Boy Named Sue", a single to the album Boy Named Sue (and His Other Country Songs), produced by Chet Atkins and Felton Jarvis. The song tells the tale of a young man's quest for revenge on a father who abandoned him at 3 years of age and whose only contribution to his entire life was naming him Sue, commonly a feminine name, which results in the young man suffering from ridicule and harassment by everyone he meets in his travels. Because of this, Sue grows up tough, mean and smartens up very quickly, though he frequently relocates due to the shame his name gives him. Angered by the embarrassment and abuse that he endures in his life, he swears that he will find and kill his father for giving him "that awful name."
Sue later locates his father at a Gatlinburg, Tennessee, tavern during the middle of a summer season and confronts him by saying, "My name is Sue! How do you do? Now you're gonna die!" This results in a vicious brawl that spills outdoors into a muddy street. After the two have beaten each other almost senseless, Sue's father admits that he is "the son of a bitch" that named him Sue and explains that the name was given as an act of love. Because Sue's father knew that he would not be there for his son, he gave him the name, believing (correctly) that the ensuing ridicule would force him to "get tough or die." Learning this, Sue makes peace with his father and they reconcile. With his lesson learned, Sue closes the song with a promise to name his son "Bill or George, any damn thing but Sue! I still hate that name!"
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