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Observations placeholder

Kristofferson, Kris - 1970 Sunday morning coming down



Type of Spiritual Experience


Kristoffer Kristofferson was born in Brownsville, Texas, to Mary Ann and Lars Henry Kristofferson, a U.S. Army Air Corps officer (later a U.S. Air Force Major General). His paternal grandparents emigrated from Sweden, while his mother had English, Scottish-Irish, German, Swiss-German, and Dutch ancestry!  Kristofferson became a member of Delta Kappa fraternity at Pomona College, graduating in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, in literature.  Kristofferson earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he studied at Merton College. While at Oxford, he was awarded his Blue for boxing, played rugby for his college, and began writing songs. In 1960, Kristofferson graduated with a B.Phil in English literature and in following year he married his long-time girlfriend, Frances Mavia Beer.

Kristofferson, under pressure from his family, ultimately joined the U.S. Army and attained the rank of Captain. He became a helicopter pilot. He also completed Ranger School. During the early 1960s, he was stationed in West Germany as a member of the 8th Infantry Division. During this time, he resumed his music career and formed a band. In 1965, when his tour of duty ended, Kristofferson was given an assignment to teach English literature at West Point. Instead, he decided to leave the Army and pursue songwriting.

This caused a huge rift in his family, and to a certain extent it is this feeling of being 'excommunicated' by his family for not following the path they appear to have dictated for him, as opposed to the path which was his destiny, that is explored in the song.

After leaving the Army in 1965, Kristofferson moved to Nashville. He worked at a variety of odd jobs while struggling for success in music, burdened with medical expenses resulting from his son's defective esophagus. He and his wife soon divorced.  There is thus also grief built into this song - loss of his wife, loss of his son as a consequence.

He got a job sweeping floors at Columbia Recording Studios in Nashville. He met June Carter there and asked her to give Johnny Cash a tape of his. She did, but Johnny put it in a large pile with others. Weeks later Kristofferson landed a helicopter in Cash's front yard, gaining his full attention.

Cash decided to record "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" and that year Kristofferson won songwriter of the year at the country music awards.

A description of the experience

Kris Kristofferson - Sunday morning coming down (1970)

Kris said in an interview, "This song probably was the most directly autobiographical thing I had written. In those days I was living in a slum tenement that was torn down afterwards, but it was 25 dollars a month in a condemned building, and "Sunday Morning Coming Down" was more or less looking around me and writing about what I was doing. One time, some people broke into that place, and I had to call the police station to answer some questions about it, and the guy said, "Yeah, they really trashed the place when they went in there." But I hadn't noticed that it was any different. There were holes in the wall bigger than I was. It was quite a place, so "Sunday Morning Coming Down" is kind of more or less what I was living at that time. I guess it was depressing, I don't know, but the chorus was kind of uplifting. ... What I was really trying to do was to keep the feeling of loss and of sadness. For me at that time, it was the loss of my family and looking at a little kid swinging on a swing and his daddy pushing him. That was the feeling I wanted to get for the whole song. I think Sunday was the choice because the bars were closed in the morning and nobody was at work, so if you were alone, it was the most alone time..."

Sunday Morning coming down
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 through my closet for my clothes
and found my cleanest dirty shirt
and I shaved (washed) my face and combed my hair
and stumbled down the stairs to meet the day

I'd smoked so much the night before,
my mouth was like an ashtray I'd been licking
(I'd smoked my brain the night before on cigarettes and songs
that I've been pickin')
but I lit my first and watched a small kid
cussin' at a can that he was kicking
then I crossed the empty street
and caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken,
and it took me back to somethin'
that I'd lost somehow somewhere along the way

On the Sunday morning sidewalks
wishing Lord that I was stoned
'cause there's something in a Sunday
that makes a body feel alone
and there's nothin' short of dyin'
half as lonesome as the sound
on the sleepin' city sidewalks
Sunday mornin' comin' down

In the park I saw a daddy
with a laughing little girl who he was swingin'
and I stopped beside a Sunday school
and listened to the song that they were singin'
then I headed back for home and
somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin'
and it echoed through the canyons like
the disappearing dreams of yesterday.

The source of the experience

Kristofferson, Kris

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