“Sunday Morning Coming Down” – JOHNNY CASH
The strings want you to believe that the singer’s discovering some grace on this particular Sunday – that the sight of a father playing with his child in a park, the smell of frying chicken, and the voices of kids singing in a church are soothing him, repairing all the damage he did to his body the night before.
But those strings can’t disguise the bleakness of Kris Kristofferson’s lyric, which sounds just like a hangover feels. The images of peace and contentment aren’t beacons to a better way of being, they’re hollow reminders of just how empty the singer is, and how unlikely he is to change anything about his life.
Johnny Cash has the perfect voice for this song, deep and bruised enough to make the hangover feel real, with all the authority those strings lack. As the lyric requires, he doesn’t sound like the thought of entering that church ever occurs to him; he’s probably just gonna keep walking till he finds an open bar. But he doesn’t seem resigned to his fate, so much as honest about how much more searching he’ll have to do before everything he witnessed on his walk feels more real than his hangover.