Track of the Day: 'I Can't Help Wonder Where I'm Bound' by Johnny Cash

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A solemn pick from reader John Litt:

This cover song doesn’t cross genres. It’s basically a folk singer with acoustic guitar covering a folk singer with acoustic guitar.

But oh my goodness, is it transformative. When Tom Paxton sang “I Can't Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound,” it was about a young man looking ahead to where his life might take him. Johnny Cash, his voice almost gone, looks back over a long life that he knows is just about over. He’s regretful and resigned and without a trace of fear, but … he can’t help but wonder where he’s bound.

I don’t know if I would really have understood it when I was young, but now that most of my life is behind me rather than ahead, it pierces me like few other songs do.

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