This article traces the highs and lows of country singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson’s early music career when he emerged as the standard bearer for a supposedly new and authentic Nashville sound. Focusing on the late 1960s and early 1970s, this paper examines the critical, commercial, and personal impact of such expectations at a time when Americans from varied walks of life latched on to country music and its performers as founts of honesty and authenticity that sustained often competing images of the South and the nation. It underscores how Kristofferson and his work complicated, challenged, and reinforced certain views on country music, its audience, and its place in the national cultural and political landscape. The title borrows a line from Kristofferson’s semi-autobiographical song, “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33,” in which he wonders “if the going up was worth the coming down.”


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pp. 78-103
Launched on MUSE
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