Johnny Cash wrote THE WALLS OF A PRISON after performing for the inmates at Folsom Prison, California. Based on an original British tune; 'THE UNFORTUNATE RAKE'. Written over one hundred years ago, the same tune was used in the 1890s for the 'THE COWBOY'S LAMENT', also known as 'THE STREETS OF LAREDO'.
THE WALLS OF A PRISON
Words and music by Johnny Cash
As recorded by Johnny Cash on "From Sea to Shining Sea" (Columbia CS-9447, 1967)
I [D] walked in the [A7] big yard to [D] feel the warm [A7] sunshine.
A [D] ninety-nine [G] year man stepped [D] over to [A7] me.
He [D] offered a [A7] smoke and he [D] said as I [A7] rolled it:
"To-[D] morrow I'm [G] goin' to break [A7] out and go [D] free.
CHORUS: [D] "They watch us by sunlight; [G] they watch us by spotlight,
But [D] I know a way for a [E7] man to go [A7] free.
Down [D] under my cell, I'm [G] diggin' a tunnel.
The [D] walls of a prison will [A7] never hold [D] me."
I told him that I'd have no part of his scheming.
My time would be over one year from today.
His eyes blazed with fire and he looked right through me.
Bitter, but broken, again he did say: CHORUS
Next morning at breakfast, the old man was missing.
Then we all heard the rifles, high up on the wall.
He'd gone through the tunnel, just like he had promised,
And they said he was cryin', when they saw him fall. CHORUS