Kris Kristofferson, Songwriter, Singer, Actor
Kris Kristofferson in 2006
Kris Kristofferson was born in 1936. Known to many as a master singer, songwriter and actor in over fifty (50) movies, he once swept floors at Columbia Records in Nashville in order to support his young family. He joined the National Guard for a while and in an attempt to promote his original songs, he landed a helicopter in Johnny Cash's front yard hoping Johnny would listen to a demo tape of his recordings.
Different versions of the stunt have been embellished by the pair of singers over the years, with Kris humbly describing himself as Johnny's former janitor. Johnny Cash says Kris jumped off the helicopter with a demo tape in one hand and a beer in the other. Kris liked Johnny's version so much he goes with that story. Old stories tend to improve with age.
Roger Miller was the first to record Kris's tune, "Me and Bobby McGee", a tune that later became a rock hit for Janis Joplin and was recorded by countless other popular singers including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.
Me and Bobby McGee
Kris Kristofferson penned words to songs that would become major hits for many other performers including Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Ray Price, Waylon Jennings and more. His song "Me and Bobby McGee" topped the charts at number one, recorded by "The First Queen of Rock" Janis Joplin, on her posthumous album "Pearl".1
Various sources name Kris Kristofferson as both a lover and friend of Ms. Joplin from the onset of her career until her untimely death of an overdose in 1970. Although Kristofferson says the song was not written for her, it is most often associated with Janis Joplin. In his original version of the song, Bobby McGee was a female.
The many singers who recorded this giant hit include Roger Miller (1969), Kenny Rodgers (1969), Gordon Lightfoot (1970), Jerry Lee Lewis (1971,1972), Olivia Newton John (1973), Joan Baez (1984), Roger Miller, Johnny Cash (1972) and The Grateful Dead (1971), LeAnn Rimes (1999), Pink (2004), Dolly Parton (2005) and others.
Janis Joplin singing Me and Bobby McGee
Award Winning Musician
He earned his first Grammy Award in 1971, as songwriter for the Best Country Song, "Help Me Make It Through The Night". The YouTube version below, sung by Martina McBride, includes a charming introduction by the man himself.
He won a Grammy in 1973 for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for his song "From the Bottle to the Bottom" sung with former wife, Rita Coolidge.
In 1975 he again took the award for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for "Lover Please" also performed with Ms. Coolidge.
Johnny Cash and Kris sing Sunday Morning Coming Down
Kristofferson's hit song "Help Me Make It Through The Night" has been recorded by a number of famous singers including Jerry Lee Lewis, Gladys Knight and Willie Nelson.
Beyond his many well received songs and movie song tracks, Kristofferson achieved stardom in the films Semi Tough with Burt Reynolds, Lonestar, The Blade Trilogy, Cisco Pike alongside actor Gene Hackman, A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, A Star is Born starring Barbra Streisand and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid along with many others.
He is the winner of three Grammy Awards and a Golden Globe Award."
The Silver Tongued Devil and I
Born in Brownsville, Texas, Kris' childhood family moved frequently like most military families. He was the eldest son of a Major General in the US Army Air Corps, now known as the US Air Force. His father was the driving force behind Kris' enlistment in the Army.
After finishing a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from Southern California's Pomona College, he attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. Kristofferson is reputed to have been influenced by William Blake, the 17th Century songwriter, illustrator and poet. William Blake's work promoted pursuing one's God given talents to their fullest regardless of the risk, a philosophy that Kris Kristofferson embraced in life. Blake's work spoke to the common man, much like the words behind Kristofferson's songs. His bold, honest lyrics and songs that tell real life stories endear him to his audiences.
Under pressure from a family steeped in military tradition, Kristofferson later joined the Army and trained as a helicopter pilot in the era of the Vietnam War. Having achieved the rank of Captain, he left the Army to pursue a career in music, turning down a job as Professor of Literature at West Point, much to the disappointment of his family.
Help Me Make It Through The Night
His acting career includes a wide variety of roles played in movies including "A Star is Born" in 1976, co-starring with Barbra Streisand, "Convoy" in 1978, "Blade" in 1998, where he played Blade's mentor, Abraham Whistler, returning in "Blade II" and "Blade Trinity", 2004. In 1989, he played the lead role along side of Cheryl Ladd in the film, "Millennium".
Recently, he returned to the silver screen starring in "A Dolphin's Tale" as the father of veterinarian Dr. Clay Haskett (played by Harry Connick, Jr.). The latest of his roles includes "When Angels Sing", as the Colonel, released in 2013.
A survivor of multiple marriages, a career in the Army, and years of struggling to make a name in the music business, this Award Winning actor and performer continues to wow audiences with his life enriched, well-wizened voice singing wistful tunes and heartfelt words.
Now in his seventies, Mr. Kristofferson remains a favorite singer story teller and performer, his work spanning generations beyond the children of the sixties who remember him for his famous hit songs as if it were yesterday.
His latest album, "Closer to the Bone", demonstrates his true viability as a great performer to this day.
Closer To The Bone - Official
Martin Dreadnought Guitar
- NPR Music, npr.org, Laura Sydel
- US News, usnews.com, Jeff Greer
- Grammy Awards Past Winners, grammy.com
- Kris Kristofferson's Website
© 2011 Peg Cole
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