Kris Kristofferson, Songwriter, Singer, Actor
Kris Kristofferson was born in Brownsville, Texas on June 22, 1936. A dependent of a military father, their family traveled around settling eventually in California.
A powerful icon who continues to perform into his eighties, Kris is known to many as a master singer, songwriter and actor in over fifty movies. In the early years before finding fame, he once swept floors at Columbia Records in Nashville trying to support his young family. After joining the National Guard for a while and in an attempt to promote his original songs, he borrowed a helicopter and landed it in Johnny Cash's front yard hoping the established musician would listen to a tape of his recordings.
Different versions of the stunt have evolved over the years as recalled fondly by the pair. Kristofferson humbly describes himself as Johnny's former janitor while 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 Kristofferson's tune, Me and Bobby McGee. The song became a U.S. number one hit single for Texas native, Janis Joplin in 1971. Countless other musical artists recorded this hit including Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers in 1969, Roger Miller, also in 1969, Gordon Lightfoot, 1970, Jerry Lee Lewis in 1971 and 1972, Johnny Cash, 1972 Olivia Newton John, 1973, Joan Baez, 1984, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Jeannie C. Riley, Melissa Etheridge, Anne Murray, LeAnn Rimes, The Grateful Dead, Sam the Sham, Willie Nelson and others such as Pink, 2004, Dolly Parton in 2005, and Sheryl Crow.
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.
Award Winning Musician
In 1970, he won the Country Music Association Award for Song of the Year, "Sunday Morning Coming Down" first recorded by Ray Stephens in 1969 before it became a number one hit for Johnny Cash.
He earned a Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1972, as the writer of "Help Me Make It Through The Night". The version sung by Martina McBride includes a charming introduction by the man himself. The hit song has been recorded by a multitude of famous singers including Jerry Lee Lewis, Gladys Knight and Willie Nelson.
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 1974 he again took the award for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for "Lover Please" also performed with Ms. Rita Coolidge and in 1976 for "Lover Please."
His awards continued in the years that followed when in 2014 he entered the Grammy Hall of Fame culminating with a Lifetime Achievement Award alongside The Beatles, The Isley Brothers and others.
Beyond his many well received songs and movie song tracks, Kristofferson achieved stardom in films like Semi Tough with Burt Reynolds, Lonestar in 1996, The Blade Trilogy, Cisco Pike with actor Gene Hackman, A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea, Bloodworth (2011), Traded in 2016 in which he worked at the age of 80 along with a multitude of other starring roles.
He is the winner of three Grammy Awards and a Golden Globe Award.
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.
Described as "magnetic" in his starring role in A Star is Born in 1976, where he co-starred with Barbra Streisand, his movie career spanned the years. He played Martin "Rubber Duck" Penwald in Convoy in 1978, as Abraham Whistler in Blade in 1998, returning in Blade II and Blade Trinity, 2004. In 1989, he played the lead role in the film, Millennium with Cheryl Ladd, a movie where time travelers take the victims of airplane disasters to the future.
He returned to the silver screen starring in A Dolphin's Tale in 2011, as father of veterinarian Dr. Clay Haskett, played by Harry Connick, Jr. also featuring Ashley Judd and Nathan Gamble. He also played in When Angels Sing, released in 2013, as the Colonel along side of country music star, Willie Nelson, as Nick, in this film certain to become a Christmas classic.
From the Original Movie A Star is Born
A survivor of multiple marriages, a successful 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 writing heartfelt words. His latest album, Closer to the Bone, demonstrates his viability as a valued and well-loved performer.
Now in his eighties, Mr. Kristofferson remains a favorite singer, story teller, actor and performer. His work bridges generations from the children of the sixties to a new and vibrant audience who recognize and appreciate his tenacity and talent.
© 2011 Peg Cole