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Sunday Morning Coming Down, written by Kris Kristofferson - Review

Updated on February 11, 2017
Kris Kristofferson
Kris Kristofferson | Source

On the surface, the song Sunday Morning Coming Down sounds just like what it is: the story of a performer who had a gig on Saturday night and woke up the next morning hung over from too much booze and cigarettes. But it’s more than that: it resonates with anyone not plugged into a secure, predictable and steady social structure, to the lonely or disaffected who may feel themselves on the outside looking in. The song reveals author Kris Kristofferson’s talent as a poet, with lines like “… it took me back to something that I’d lost somehow somewhere along the way” and “somewhere far away a lonesome bell was ringing / and it echoed through the canyon / like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.” It is full of sensory images – a father with his young daughter, a solitary kid kicking a can down the street, the sound of Sunday school kids singing hymns, the smell of frying chicken, all of which serve to underscore the isolation of the singer, revealed in the chorus line: “cause there’s something ‘bout a Sunday / Makes a body feel alone.”

Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson

Kristofferson has written a lot of songs for a variety of artists -- including Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby Magee -- and has made his mark with his own hits, including Help Me Make It Though the Night, but his very best song may be Sunday Morning Coming Down, first recorded in 1969 by Ray Stevens and then by Kristofferson himself in 1970. The song really took off that same year when Johnny Cash got hold of it and took it to number 1 on the country charts. Here’s a rendition of Cash and a clearly pleased, perhaps somewhat awed young Kristofferson singing the song:

Trisha Yearwood and Kris Kristofferson

With all the hints of a dissolute life – “my cleanest dirty shirt,” “no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt,” a reference to two beers for breakfast -- it sounds like a song made to be sung by a man, and someone way down on his luck, at that, but Trisha Yearwood put the lie to that notion in her version of the song, sung at a Johnny Cash tribute in 1999, with Kris Kristofferson accompanying her on the guitar:

It’s hard to listen to the song without coming to tears – the raw honesty of every single line, including the ending lines of the refrain, “There ain’t nothing short of dying’ / half as lonesome as the sound / on the sleeping city sidewalks / Sunday mornin’ comin’ down” – and the song’s eternal association with Johnny Cash, whom the world lost in September of 2003. Maybe the best rendition of the song was given by Kris Kristofferson himself at a memorial concert for Johnny Cash in September of 2003, where he said about Cash, “Bob Dylan said, ‘John was the north star, and you could guide your ship by him.’”

Kris Kristofferson's Tribute to Johnny Cash


For the full lyrics to "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down, click on Cowboy Lyrics.


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    • bloggermelive profile image

      Donna 2 months ago from East Yorkshire, UK

      Another Kris fan here! Thanks for sharing. Great article, from the heart. Let me know if you do any more? I am still learning the ropes here, so I hope I am in the loop by following?

      I enjoy reading about Kris because he is a subject that never ages - There are so many aspects of the man & his art that I guess they could fill a library.

    • AMFredenburg profile image

      Aldene Fredenburg 2 years ago from Southwestern New Hampshire

      Thank you, chezchazz; Kristoferson really does speak to a person's deepest feelings at times.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 2 years ago from New York

      A Kristofferson fan since the early days, you really captured the essence of this song - also one of my favorites. Thank you - I couldn't have found this at a more perfect time.

    • AMFredenburg profile image

      Aldene Fredenburg 4 years ago from Southwestern New Hampshire

      Thanks, kidscrafts; what you say is so true.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Some singers are poets and it's a way for them to express themselves through their pain or the great moment of their life!

      Thanks for sharing!