I recently watched the Netflix TV series ‘Inside Man‘. The theme song,‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ by American singer John Grant, immediately caught my ear. Somehow it reminded me of certain players in the shipping world, particularly those who contribute in one way or another to the suffering of seafarers and other people.
About the song
‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ (also known as ‘God Almighty’s Gonna Cut You Down’) is an American folk song that was first recorded in 1941 by the Golden Gate Quartet under the Columbia label. Some have rightly called it a gospel song as it talks about divine retribution for wrongdoing. Indeed, it is a Christian take on the old saying “what goes around, comes around”.
The song opens with a dire warning: “You can run on for a long time/ Run on for a long time/ Run on for a long time/ Sooner or later God’ll cut you down/ Sooner or later God’ll cut you down”.
It goes on to identify those who face the wrath of the Almighty:
the long-tongued liar
the midnight rider
the back biter
The word “rambler” reminded me of maritime folks who make long-winded speeches or talk incessantly about certain issues (e.g., depression at sea) to push some agenda. “Midnight rider” called to mind the pirate who preys on merchant ships and their crews.
I was particularly struck by the following lines, which made me think of the manning agents who skim money from the remittances of seafarers and the shipowners who use flags of convenience to escape accountability:
Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand
Workin’ in the dark against your fellow man
But as sure as God made black and white
What’s down in the dark will be brought to the light
The Johnny Cash version
The song has been recorded by numerous artists in various styles. One of the most popular versions is by the legendary American country singer-songwriter, Johnny Cash (1932 – 2003). Listen to him perform ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ from his posthumously released 2006 album American V: A Hundred Highways: