A greater power must have decided the world needed a musical pick-me-up, which has arrived courtesy of a lost duet featuring Johnny Cash and Ray Charles that has been released for the first time.
Why Me, Lord? was written by Kris Kristofferson, with Cash on lead vocals and Charles providing backup vocals, according to Billboard.com. Recorded in 1981, the song was intended for release on a Johnny Cash album, but it ultimately didn’t show up anywhere.
Why Me, Lord? appears on the new Charles’s album, Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Matters, which was released this week.
The long, lost song from the country legend and soul icon was discovered when Ray Charles Foundation president Valerie Ervin was going through archival material at the L.A.-based Ray Charles Memorial Library.
Earlier this year she found two letters Cash wrote to Charles.
The first letter, dated Dec. 11, 1981, starts off like this:
“I am so proud when I tell people that I have recorded a song with you . … I hope you like this tape. I realize that the orchestration isn’t big and I don’t sing very good, but I think the thing has a feeling and a quality that the fans would really enjoy.”
Cash goes on to say he’d like to release the song on his upcoming album, sharing the royalties with Charles. But for whatever reason, Why Me, Lord? never made it to vinyl.
Cash’s second letter identified the song’s title and Billy Sherrill as its producer.
Ervin actually had Ray Charles Marketing Group president Tony Gumina help in the search. He turned to former Columbia records employee Margie Hunt, who figured recording engineer Al Quaglieri might have a clue about the whereabouts of the song.
“This song has seen the light of day,” Gumina told Billboard. “And the music world is better off because of that.”
The master tape was found last June at a storage facility in New York City.
Charles died in 2004. Cash died in 2003.
Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters:
- 1. “Love’s Gonna Bite You Back”
- 2. “It Hurts To Be In Love”
- 3. “Wheel of Fortune”
- 4. “I’m Gonna Keep On Singin’”
- 5. “There’ll Be Some Changes Made”
- 6. “Isn’t It Wonderful”
- 7. “I Don’t Want No One But You”
- 8. “A Little Bitty Tear”
- 9. “She’s Gone”
- 10. “Why Me, Lord?” (ft. Johnny Cash)