25 Minutes to Go is a song performed by Johnny Cash on his famous At Folsom Prison concert album. It was written by Shel Silverstein. John R. (Johnny) Cash (February 26, 1932 â September 12, 2003) was an influential American country and rock music singer and songwriter. ...
At Folsom Prison is a live album by Johnny Cash, recorded on January 13, 1968 at Folsom State Prison. ...
Sheldon Alan Shel Silverstein (September 25, 1930 â May 10, 1999) was an American poet, songwriter, musician, composer, cartoonist, screenwriter, and author of childrens books. ...
The song is literally "gallows humor", as it is sung by a man awaiting his own execution by hanging. Each verse consists of two lines, of which the first line is anything from humorous to poignant, and the second line is a minute-by-minute countdown. Cash's version, excerpted below, varied somewhat from Silverstein's original lyrics:
- Well, they're building a gallows outside my cell;
- And I've got 25 minutes to go.
- And whole town's comin' just to hear me yell;
- I've got 24 minutes to go.
- I can see the buzzards, I can hear the crows;
- 1 more minute to go.
- And now I'm swingin'!
- And here I go-oh-oh-oh-oh...
In the live prison concert recording, Cash flubbed one line, singing "7 more minutes to go" instead of "4 more minutes to go".
The song is similar in concept to Silverstein's kiddy song "Boa Constrictor": It presents the point of view of someone who is experiencing a calamity in "real time", composing and singing as the events unfold, with a fatal conclusion.