Kris Kristofferson, the former Rhodes Scholar, could be the smartest songwriter in country music. His tracks, whether they were for him to perform or others, always told a story with an underlying, often soul-defining message.
Take “Here Comes that Rainbow Again.” Kris Kristofferson wrote it and recorded the song in 1995 as part of the supergroup “The Highwaymen.” He sang it at his concerts. Other singers, including his close friend Johnny Cash, recorded it as well.
Kris Kristofferson officially stepped away from country music earlier this week, so we here at Outsider are featuring some of his best work. Here’s Kristofferson performing “Here Comes That Rainbow Again” at Austin City Limits back in 2009. Give the song a listen and join us on the other side for some key details.
Classic Book/Movie Inspired this Kris Kristofferson Song
Kris Kristofferson wrote the song back in 1980. He said reading the book and watching the movie version of the American classic “The Grapes of Wrath” inspired him. John Steinbeck wrote the book and won a Pulitzer Prize for his work. The movie, starring Henry Fonda, followed in 1940. The story was focused around a farming family trying to survive the Great Depression. They lost their farm in Oklahoma, then moved to California to work as migrant farmers.
“I read The Grapes of Wrath in either high school or college in California,” Kristofferson told Project Muse. “Also, East of Eden, Of Mice and Men. I wanted to be a writer and admired Steinbeck. I am sure that growing up in Brownsville, Texas, helped me identify with the characters in The Grapes of Wrath. And it was a wonderful, unforgettable movie. “
Song Offered A Pay It Forward Moment
The specific inspiration for Kris Kristofferson was the scene in the movie where the kids were in a cafe. The song was about a pay-it-forward-moment, long before the movement ever became a thing. The first verse told of how a couple of kids wanted to buy some candy, but probably couldn’t afford it. The waitress asks how much money the two had. They told her a penny. So, she said the price was two pieces of candy for a penny.
A truck driver watched the waitress give the candy to the poor kids. And here’s the final verse to the Kris Kristofferson song.
“One truck driver called to the waitress, after the kids went outside. Them candies ain’t two for a penny. So what’s it to you, she replied. In silence they finished their coffee. Got up and nodded goodbye. She called, hey, you left too much money. So what’s it to you, he replied.
“And the daylight grew heavy with thunder and the smell of the rain on the wind. Ain’t it just like a human. Here comes that rainbow again.”
“The Highwaymen” Recorded The Song In 1995
Kris Kristofferson and “The Highwaymen” included the song on their 1995 album, “The Road Goes On Forever.” The others in the supergroup — Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson — were backup as Kristofferson sang this song. The album was reissued a decade later, a little more than a year after Johnny Cash died.
Johnny Cash also sang “Here Comes That Rainbow Again.” He included it on his 70th studio album called “Rainbow.” Cash released the album in 1985. Kristofferson wrote two of the songs on it.
Kris Kristofferson Was Inducted Into ACL Hall of Fame in 2016
Kris Kristofferson will turn 85 this summer. He’s been a captain in the Army. He flew helicopters. He was a Rhodes Scholar, studying in England. Kristofferson thought about becoming an English professor. He was an actor. But his true loves were singing and writing songs with deeper meaning.
Fun fact. The post is about a Kris Kristofferson performance at ACL, the long-running music program based in Austin. Kristofferson, along with B.B. King and Bonnie Raitt, was inducted into the 2016 Hall of Fame class.
Want to read more Outsider coverage of Kris Kristofferson? Here’s an article on Kristofferson’s best known recording “Why Me , Lord” and how a choir of country all-stars sang it with him.