Written by Joe Hayes and Jack Rhodes “Satisfied Mind” takes hold of the age-old assertion that “money can’t buy you happiness” and expresses it in a simple song. Hayes claimed that the idea came from his his father-in-law who quizzed him on who the richest man in the world was and then after a few guesses informed him that he was wrong and that it was in fact “the man with a satisfied mind”. I can find no fewer than four versions released in 1955, the best of which was one by Ella Fitzgerald, but the first and most successful, reaching number one on the Billboard Country Music Chart, was by Porter Wagoner. It was his first number one record and did much to establish him as a major star.
From the 1960’s the song was adopted by the folk community, it’s liberal sentiments striking a chord with their world view. Versions by Ian & Sylvia and Joan Baez are well worth a listen and the song was also recorded by Bob Dylan in 1967 although it didn’t actually see the light of day until the release of Volume 11 of the Bootleg Series in 2014. Folk-rock and country-rock acts also picked up on the song during the sixties, with versions by The International Submarine Band and Goose Creek Symphony being amongst the best of them. However, the first band to do this were The Byrds with a glorious interpretation on their ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ album in 1966
‘Satisfied Mind’ has been recorded across a range of genres including versions by John Martyn, Jonathan Richman, The Walkabouts, Jeff Buckley, Eric Bibb, Justin Vernon, Chris Cornell and Robert Plant. Icons of americana who have recorded the song include Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Rosanne Cash, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils and the great Johnny Cash. Cash originally recorded the song for the soundtrack of the film ‘Kill Bill 2’ (2004) and it later appeared again on his posthumous ‘American IV’ album in 2010. For me, Cash’s is the most powerful version of all, his voice captivating the listener and focusing them on each and every word of the song.
In recent years I’ve heard two more versions of the song that have instantly become amongst my favourites. The first was released as a single in 2020 by the redoubtable Eilen Jewell and really does warrant your attention. But pipping it by a very short head is the version recorded by Jeb Loy Nichols, whose colourful life journey has taken him from Wyoming to Wales. This performance of the song comes from his 2022 album ‘The United States of the Broken Hearted’.
You would think that with such a beautiful song it would be hard to mess it up. However, with so many recordings out there it is perhaps inevitable that there are a few aberrations. So if you are of a strong disposition and in possession of a sick, rather than satisfied mind, I offer you versions by Dallas Holm, Danny Gatton and erm.. Daniel O’Donnell.