'Sunday Morning,' coming up

Kris Kristofferson has lived a dozen lifetimes, and they keep on coming

"But when I decided I was going to write songs, I decided I was gonna do it right -- be true to the best of it -- and I think I was pretty idealistic. I thought I would show, in the best way I could, all the emotions I could."

Without a doubt, the best thing Kristofferson ever wrote, ever performed, is "Sunday Morning Coming Down," sung by a man who wakes up with his head in one hand and a beer in the other. It's about a guy who stumbles out of bed only to realize he's got no place to go, who shaves his face and combs his hair even though there's nobody to give a shit about him. He staggers out into the street and is hit in the face by the smell of fried chicken, the lonesome sound of "the sleepin' city sidewalk," and the sight of a father with "a laughing little girl" he's pushing on a swing set. "On the Sunday mornin' sidewalks, wishin' Lord that I was stoned," Kristofferson croaks, "'cause there's something in a Sunday makes a body feel alone." Not for nothing was that song a favorite of Kurt Vonnegut's, Sam Peckinpah's, and Robert Mitchum's.

"That song was literally what I was living at the time, and it just expressed itself," Kristofferson says. Then he considers it for a moment, pondering how enormous a difference 30 years makes.

Friend to Muhammad Ali and Willie Nelson. "That's ridiculous," says the boy from Brownsville.
Friend to Muhammad Ali and Willie Nelson. "That's ridiculous," says the boy from Brownsville.
Kris Kristofferson, a thousand Sunday mornings ago
Kris Kristofferson, a thousand Sunday mornings ago

"Aw, Christ, with that song in particular," he says. "In that song, there's a guy swinging this laughing little girl as I walked past him. Shit, I'm the guy who's swinging the little girl now. And, man, for that, you've gotta feel gratitude." And he laughs some more.

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