Cash, Johnny - Rainbow
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Cash – The autobiography of Johnny Cash
You may have heard of the Highwaymen: me, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson all together on a single ticket, four for the price of one. We got the idea when I was doing an ABC TV Christmas special in Montreux, Switzerland.
The network told me to invite whoever I wanted to be on the show, so I asked Willie, Kris, and Waylon, and off we went to Montreux. We had so much fun, we decided to make a habit of it.
We shot the special in Montreux because it's beautiful there and snowy, and they have a great music facility. That wasn’t what Waylon said, though, when a reporter asked him, Why Christmas in Montreux?' He gave her his famous ''Who, me?’ look and laid it on her: ‘Well, that's where Jesus was born, isn’t it?' Waylon really is the master of the one-liner.
He got off a great one when he and I were recovering from bypass surgery together, which is a story in itself. It started when I went to visit him in the hospital. His doctor saw me and didn't like the way I looked, so he sent me off to another room for heart function tests, and the next thing I knew, he was asking, 'Who do I call to cancel your vacation?' The following day I was in the operating room.
The surgery was successful, though it's not something I'd call a pleasant way to pass the time. I felt at least three-quarters dead in the few days after it, and Waylon said he felt the same. It definitely qualified as a close encounter with our mortality. Waylon was in my room with me when a nurse's aide came in and started cleaning the place up. We stopped talking while she worked and watched her puffing and panting through her work, having a hard time of it because she was pretty seriously overweight. She finished up in just a couple of minutes and exited, sweating. ‘Whew, 'said Waylon, weakly. 'I'm sure glad she didn't sing.'
The other Highwaymen don't go back with me as far as Waylon, but Kris comes pretty close. He and I have had a powerful connection ever since I noticed him sweeping out the CBS studio in Nashville in 1969 and saw the intensity in his eyes. I didn't know anything about his background - winning a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, flying helicopters in the United States Army Rangers - and I couldn't see his future, but I surely knew that the fire burning in him was a hot one. When I paid attention to his songs, of course, his genius was obvious, and since it was first revealed to me I don't think I've performed a single concert without singing a Kristofferson song.
'Sunday Morning Coming Down' is the one people identify with me most strongly, but if I had to pick the one I love best, I think it would be 'Rainbow.'
In fact, that might be my favourite song by any writer of our time. Besides all that, Kris is kind and funny, and honourable; he stands up for his beliefs and he won't let you down. He, too, is one I love like a brother.
I don't know Willie very well. I never met him during his Nashville years, when he and Faron and the gang were trying to give Tootsie's orchid Lounge a bad name, and after he left for Texas I didn't spend any significant time with him until we started working together in the Highwaymen (though 'working’ isn't quite the word). Even today I can’t say I know him very well, either, because he's a hard man to know; he keeps his inner thoughts for himself and his songs. He just doesn't talk much at all, in fact. When he does, what he says is usually very perceptive and precise, and often very funny; he has a beautiful sense of irony and a true appreciation for the absurd.
I really like him.
He and I have done some two-man shows together recently, just him on a stool with his guitar and me on a stool with mine, trading songs and jokes and stories. That's fun, speaking of fun, the greatest public honor I ever received, to my mind anyway, was being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980. I was the first living person to be so honoured. I've been given all kinds of awards in my career, before and after 1980, including some big ones - Grammies, the Kennedy Center Honors, the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame - but nothing beats the Country Music Hall of Fame, or ever will.