109: Johnny Cash - The Ballad of Ira Hayes

Today we are talking about a legendary singer/songwriter and a legendary human being. We are talking about the person that was the inspiration for the beginning lines of this very podcast that you hear every week and that you just heard. It is from his iconic line, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash”.


The Ballad of Ira Hayes by Johnny Cash is off his album Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian.

Lyrics Discussed

Gather round me people there’s a story I would tell
About a brave young Indian you should remember well
From the land of the Pima Indian
A proud and noble band
Who farmed the Phoenix valley in Arizona land
Down the ditches for a thousand years
The water grew Ira’s peoples’ crops
Until the white man stole the water rights
And the sparkling water stopped
Now Ira’s folks were hungry
And their land grew crops of weeds
When war came, Ira volunteered
And forgot the white man’s greed


There they battled up Iwo Jima’s hill
Two hundred and fifty men
But only twenty-seven lived to walk back down again

And when the fight was over
And when Old Glory raised
Among the men who held it high
Was the Indian, Ira Hayes


Then Ira started drinking hard
Jail was often his home
They’d let him raise the flag and lower it
Like you’d throw a dog a bone!
He died drunk one morning
Alone in the land he fought to save
Two inches of water in a lonely ditch
Was a grave for Ira Hayes

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinking Indian
Nor the Marine that went to war

And lastly

Yeah, call him drunken Ira Hayes
But his land is just as dry
And his ghost is lying thirsty
In the ditch where Ira died

Other Links

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima Video

Ira Hayes Facts

Hardcore History

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

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