Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and “Sunday Morning Coming Down”

Last time I wrote about the song Fog on the Tyne which was actually a suggestion from one of my blogging buddies as it followed on nicely, in meteorological terms anyway, from my previous post which was about the song Misty by Ray Stevens. Lo and behold, just when I needed some inspiration, down from the “cloud” (I am restoring all my files onto a new computer) came a series of old pictures of my late father-in-law who was a Geordie by birth and who had worked as a young man, right in the centre of Newcastle, in an office overlooking the River Tyne.

The other suggestion I had received as to what song could follow on nicely from Misty was from Lynchie, a regular visitor to this place, who informed me that Ray Stevens had been the first person to record the Kris Kristofferson-penned song Sunday Morning Coming Down in 1969. I was a bit nervous about stepping on toes however as our Chain host over at Dubious Towers produces an excellent weekly country music thread with that same title – An homage to the song and its writer. As he just seems to have just found his blogging mojo again however after a surprisingly common bout of January blues, I rather hoped he’ll let me off. Lo and behold, what suddenly descended from the “cloud” yesterday afternoon but an mp3 of the Johnny Cash version of Sunday Morning Coming Down that I didn’t even remember I had – This post was meant to be!

Mr Kristofferson is someone I have long admired – Back in the ’70s he appeared in many films (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Convoy, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, A Star Is Born) and for some reason he was one of the actors I took a real shine to. I have always had a penchant for a man with a beard (although not necessarily today’s hipster style), and he did sport a very rugged look back then. What I have now discovered is that not only did he write some of the most iconic songs from that era but he was probably one of those guys who would have succeeded in whichever path in life he chose. A top scholar, an accomplished athlete, a US Army captain, a helicopter pilot, a novelist, an actor and a singer/song-writer.

Having just checked, I find it incredible that he never once appeared in the British music charts in his own right, despite the fact that so many of his songs did make an appearance when sung by other people – For the Good Times by Perry Como and Help Me Make It Through the Night by Gladys Knight and the Pips amongst others. He definitely did make an appearance for several weeks in a row however on 1977’s TOTP as he was Barbra Streisand‘s love interest in the film A Star Is Born – Much smooching was done during the filmed recording of the song Evergreen which was a massive hit for her that year. (Yes, my 16-year-old self was definitely smitten with Mr K in that one.)

But this was supposed to be a post about the song Sunday Morning Coming Down and as we have now ascertained Kris Kristofferson wrote it and Ray Stevens was the first person to record it, but when Johnny Cash did a version in 1970 it reached No. 1 on the country chart and won the Country Music Association Award for Song of the Year. The story is that Kris, who was working as a janitor at the time for Columbia Records in Nashville mainly to get a foothold in the industry, flew his National Guard helicopter right onto Johnny’s front lawn in order to deliver the demo tape in person. That was the turning point for him however as once Johnny took the song on, and made it his own, Kris was quoted as saying that he never again “had to work for a living”.


As for how I came to have a copy of the song in my digital library – That would be because a few years ago I had not so much a mid-life crisis but all of a sudden I became besotted with country music. It started off with acquiring Glen Campbell CDs but I then progressed to compilations of Greatest Country Hits and just about anything else I could lay my hands on, which of course included a Johnny Cash CD containing the song Sunday Morning Coming Down. Before then I had mainly known Johnny from his more light-hearted songs such as One Piece at a Time and A Boy Named Sue but also from the film I Walk The Line and the documentaries about his concerts held in the various state penitentiaries across America. Perhaps you have to be of a certain age to truly appreciate country music, and likewise, in order to really emote the lyrics in the songs you need to have a modicum of life experience, which by the time I came to appreciate Johnny he truly would have had.

The clip here is a great one as not only do we have Johnny but also Kris singing the song, making it a duet. The preamble is something they used to do quite a lot of on these sort of shows, and can be a bit cringifying, but it does lead in to an excellent performance.

Sunday Morning Coming Down by Johnny Cash:

So, “What’s It All About?” – It seems you should never be dismissive of any genre of music as one day you might just suddenly “get it” and you have a great new world to explore. As for Mr Cash’s voice, it was a deep calm bass-baritone which you just don’t often hear in music nowadays. I find it ironic that I always knew him best for his humorous songs, considering he built a whole persona around being “The Man in Black” – Sombre, serious and frankly quite scary.

As for Kris, unlike Johnny he is still with us, and rumours are afoot that he may even appear at Glastonbury this year which would be truly amazing. I am partly amazed by this because I know he is exactly the same age as my little mum and somehow I just can’t imagine her gracing the stage at Glastonbury. What she can do however is read this blog and it has become a feature of our Friday evenings together, when I go to visit. I really don’t think she quite understands the whole concept of “blogging” and why should she?Sharing your innermost thoughts, with complete strangers, across every corner of the globe is indeed a bizarre concept but one that can bring great enjoyment, so I for one intend to keep going!

Until next time….

Sunday Morning Coming Down Lyrics
(Song by Kris Kristofferson)

Well, I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

I’d smoked my mind the night before
With cigarettes and songs I’d been picking.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid
Playing with a can that he was kicking.
Then I walked across the street
And caught the Sunday smell of someone frying chicken.
And Lord, it took me back to something that I’d lost
Somewhere, somehow along the way.

On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone.
And there’s nothing short a’ dying
That’s half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk
And Sunday morning coming down.

In the park I saw a daddy
With a laughing little girl that he was swinging.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school
And listened to the songs they were singing.
Then I headed down the street,
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing,
And it echoed through the canyon
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days. I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 57 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team, Bacharach and David. The opening line to that song was, "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

6 thoughts on “Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and “Sunday Morning Coming Down””

  1. Oh, your mum sounds lovely!
    So glad things have improved on the computer front after all the stress and to see another great post. Like you, I love the rich depth of Johnny Cash’s voice and I really wish there were more like it around at the moment – male vocals in much higher register seem to seem to proliferate now, particularly in pop anyway. “You should never be dismissive of any genre of music…” is so true, it’s so much more rewarding to have an open mind (even if I end up hating something, I’ll try not to be put off by category alone!) Not so when I was younger and very dismissive of anything that didn’t ‘fit’…. then working in a record shop added to certain prejudices because you’d get stereotypical customers into certain genres who could put you right off. For years the very word ‘dance’ struck fear into my heart!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh C – Yes it seems some things most definitely still can’t be mentioned and I’ve had to do a bit of editing (sorry) but glad you got to see the original – I sympathise!

      Yes it was really kind of my mum to help me out in my hour of need and am now totally separating work and pleasure which should keep all the technological problems at bay. I am pretty open minded about music but find I’m just not being exposed to anything new nowadays – When my daughter was very much part of the family I knew what she was buying and listening to but just not part of her music world any more sadly – miss those days. I see all the music our blogging buddies share but just not enough time to fully investigate.

      As for those deep voices, they just don’t make them like Johnny any more do they – Something very “manly” about a voice like his (but I did always find him a bit scary too!).


  2. Well, firstly, thanks for the mention and the link to my place. Secondly, I would never begrudge a fellow blogger writing about Kristofferson; I genuinely don’t understand why he isn’t more loved, respected, known even, than he is, such is the breadth and majesty of his back catalogue. He’s the person that I spend most of my time trying to convince my friends (one of whom said “What, the old guy from “Blade”??) and readers that he is worthy of their time and their ears, so I’m delighted you’ve written this.

    As you rightly say, so many of his songs are better known for being recorded by other artists, and perhaps the reason for this can be found in this insightful interview from last year: Basically, he doesn’t think he’s that great a singer, a position I would, of course, dispute.

    Anyway, glad to see you’re up and running again, hope your mojo is suitably restored too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First of all thanks for letting me know I haven’t offending you or stepped on toes by writing this post – I was a tad worried especially as there ended up being 2 Sunday Morning Coming Downs on the WordPress reader this morning. It is my favourite thread of yours as I actually know or am familiar with most of the songs – Being a (female) teenager in the 70s as opposed to the 80s means that the “tracks of my years” are quite different to yours but hats off to you for knowing most of the ones I mention on the Chain.

      Thanks also for the link to the article about Kris – I had to do a fair bit of research before I did this post and have found a whole new admiration for him, and I already admired him anyway! Interesting about the memory issues and the Lyme’s disease diagnosis – Glad they got to the bottom of it but a bit worrying for us as I live on the edge of a forest that is rife with deer and we are forever picking up ticks when gardening. Actually one of the reasons I started this blog last year was that one by one all my older relatives have passed away and we’ve never written down their “stories” – By combining the stories with music I’m much more likely to put the hours in, but important to have a copy of it all somewhere as I worry about the day that WordPress will crash or shut up shop and all our stuff will be lost.

      Yes, was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to find my blogging mojo again but the new machine will definitely help and have got rid of the long list of “post ideas pending” so after this, will go back to shorter snappier ones that need less research. I do indeed know just how much work goes into the Chain so good on you for getting back to it this week – No pressure to have it on a set day though as it seems to be easiest to do this stuff when in the mood as opposed to when up against a deadline.

      Enjoy the rest of the weekend and thanks again for the reassurance I’ve not pissed you off!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good to know your PC problems have been solved and glad to see your blog back to its usual good self. Also delighted to learn that your mum is obviously such a big fan of yours!

    I think Kristofferson shouldn’t worry about his signing voice. He’s an artist whose lyrics are so good, he doesn’t need to be a great vocalist, even if some singers have done better versions of his songs. Dylan’s not a great singer but there are songs of his I feel are best sung by him and only a few Dylan cover versions have been better than the originals. I doubt any cover of a Kristofferson song could better the depth of feeling and sheer poetry of the songs on his 1st two albums – “Kristofferson” and “The Silver Tongued Devil And I”. Those albums – along with his friend John Prine’s – are among the best in the long history of popular music as songs which have stood the test of time. For me, Kristofferson’s significance as a great singer/songwriter was recognised when he joined Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings (my fave outlaw!) and Willie Nelson to form a true supergroup – The Highwaymen – even though he may have felt a little overawed in that august company.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to hear from you as it was your suggestion but with my PC problems it took a fortnight to put together!

      You are obviously a fan and very knowledgeable about the man but to be honest it wasn’t until I started doing the research that I realised he had written so many of these songs I have known just about all my life – He may not have the best singing voice but I would much prefer hearing his versions now of Help Me Make It…., and For the Good Times than the ones that made our charts. Not sure if you visit Charity Chic Music’s blog – but he also often covers the artist you mention above and is currently running a series comparing Bob Dylan covers with Bob’s own version. As you say some of his songs can really only be performed by him.

      Thanks for the suggestion by the way as wouldn’t have thought of writing this post otherwise and always up for a challenge!


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