Johnny Cash wrote “Ragged Old Flag,” the title track to his first of two albums released in 1974, after a period of deep reflection. An unabashed patriot, Cash was nonetheless disturbed by America’s political turmoil at the time, between the increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam and the wave of corruption that would force Richard Nixon out of the presidency by the summer’s end. Hoping to restore his fans’ faith in the nation, Cash penned “Ragged Old Flag” as a symbol of all that America could hope to inspire and achieve.
“I got so excited writing the songs in this album that you’d think I just started in the music business,” Cash wrote in the album’s liner notes. Specifically, he added, “‘Ragged Old Flag’ … came out faster than I could write it down. You’ve heard of people who write songs in ten minutes. ‘Ragged Old Flag’ was one of those songs.”