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Monday, September 28, 2009

Here Comes That Rainbow Again/Kris Kristofferson

This week Classics Rock! is observing Banned Books Week 2009 (September 26-October 3) by featuring songs based on frequently challenged books.

Kris Kristofferson's song Here Comes That Rainbow Again, released as a single in 1981, was featured on the album The Winning Hand--a collaboration with Brenda Lee, Dolly Parton, and Willie Nelson--and appeared on one or two live albums as well. It is currently available on The Essential Kris Kristofferson. The song is based on an episode from John Steinbeck's 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath. Set during the Great Depression, the novel follows the Joads, a family of Oklahoma sharecroppers, who set out to escape the drought and desolation of the Dust Bowl to try to find work and a better life in California. The song is based on Chapter 15, a vignette set at a cafe on Route 66. A waitress named Mae takes pity on two 'Okie' children, telling them that the nickle-a-piece candy is actually two for a penny because she knows that's all the kids have to spend. After they leave, some truck drivers drinking coffee comment on Mae's generosity. "What's that to you?" she says. The truckers, in turn, overtip Mae when they get up to leave. When she tells them they have change coming, one says, "You go to hell." (Kristofferson's lyrics have the truckers repeating Mae's line: "So what's it to you?" they replied.) The refrain And the daylight was heavy with thunder/With the smell of the rain on the wind/Ain't it just like a human/Here comes that rainbow again seems to suggest that such acts of kindness will usher in better times. In his book Cash: The Autobiography, Johnny Cash said that this song "might be my favorite song by any writer of our time." [See this earlier post for another musical reference to The Grapes of Wrath.]

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