Country Throwback: Remembering Kris Kristofferson’s Track about Johnny Cash, ‘Good Morning John’

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Kris Kristofferson, who officially retired from the music business Wednesday, truly showed the depth of his song-writing skills on an album he released more than a decade ago.

The songs were quiet and emotional. And the album Closer To The Bone offers a glimpse into the goodness in Kristofferson’s soul. The album featured the song “Good Morning John.” He wrote it for his close friend, the late Johnny Cash. The premise of the song started as an actual letter Kristofferson tried to write to Cash back in the ’70s to help Cash with his substance abuse issues. Kristofferson, instead, turned it into a song.

Kristofferson didn’t include “Good Morning John” in any of his work until 2009, five years after Cash, a fellow “Highwaymen,” died.

Kris Kristofferson recalled the details of “Good Morning John” in an interview with Billboard.

“Everyone was supposed to say something inspirational, so I wrote a song,” Kris Kristofferson said. “I tried to record this once before with Willie Nelson and my band. When I sang the chorus, they echoed me when I would sing ‘Good morning John.’ When I got to the line that said ‘I love you, John,’ Willie said ‘He loves you, John,’ and we all cracked up laughing. We never finished it, so I finished it myself.”

But the words Kris Kristofferson wrote for Cash tell the happiness he felt that Cash had taken control of his life.

And the final verse of this Kris Kristofferson classic:

Good morning, John, ain’t it great to see your future shining brighter than the naked light of day? You made it, John. But I confess there was a time we two have thought that you might let it slip away.

I love you, John. In the cold and holy darkness, you were always shining brighter than a star.
God bless you, John, for the love and joy you’ve given, as the living inspiration that you are.”

Entire Kris Kristofferson Album Was ‘Reflective’

Kris Kristofferson called the album “reflective.” He was 75 when it was released, so no doubt, he’d been doing a lot of thinking about his life. Plus, there was a layer of sadness to the release of the music. The late Steven Bruton played guitar on the album and wrote one of the songs. He died five months before the album was released. Kristofferson said he and Bruton were “soul brothers.”

Kris Kristofferson also wrote the song “Hall of Angels” for the late country star Eddie Rabbitt following the death of Rabbitt’s son.

So there was a lot of life meaning in this work.

“Every album I’ve made has been about making sense of my life at the time,” Kris Kristofferson told Billboard. “Closer To The Bone’ is a reflective album. It’s about making sense of life at this end of the game. I used to do records about a year apart with music covering issues of human rights, military aggression or whatever was going on in the world. These last two records have been more reflective about my own life.”

For more Outsider coverage of Kris Kristofferson, go here.

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