Kris Kristofferson - Prolific & Talented Songwriter
Born in Brownsville, Texas 70 years ago, Kris moved around as a child, finally settling in San Mateo, California, where he graduated high school. An aspiring writer, Kristofferson's talents earned him a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. While in England, Kristofferson began writing and singing. He recorded for Top Rank Records under the name Kris Carson, but was unsuccessful. In 1960, Kristofferson graduated with a master's in English literature and married girlfriend, Fran Beir. He joined the US Army and became a helicopter pilot.
Kristofferson moved to Nashville after resigning his commission in 1965. He worked a variety of odd jobs while struggling to make it in the music business. He and his wife divorced. Within the next few years, his originals started to hit the charts, performed by Roy Drusky ("Jody and the Kid"), Billy Walker & the Tennessee Walkers ("From the Bottle to the Bottom"), Ray Stevens ("Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down"), Jerry Lee Lewis ("Once More with Feeling") Faron Young ("Your Time's Comin'") and Roger Miller ("Me and Bobby McGee", "Best of all Possible Worlds", "Darby's Castle"). He also gained some success as a performer himself, due to Johnny Cash's introduction of him at the Newport Folk Festival.
His debut album on Monument Records included a few new songs as well as many of his previous hits. Sales were poor. In spite of his failure as a recording artist, Kristofferson's compositions were still in high demand. Ray Price ("For the Good Times"), Waylon Jennings ("The Taker"), Bobby Bare ("Come Sundown"), Johnny Cash ("Sunday Morning Coming Down") and Sammi Smith ("Help Me Make It Through the Night") all recorded successful versions of his songs in the early 1970s. Janis Joplin had a #1 hit with "Me and Bobby McGee" which was followed by more hits from Ray Price ("I Won't Mention It Again", "I'd Rather Be Sorry"), Joe Simon ("Help Me Make It Through the Night"), Bobby Bare ("Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends"), O.C. Smith ("Help Me Make It Through the Night") Jerry Lee Lewis ("Me and Bobby McGee"), Patti Page ("I'd Rather Be Sorry") and other hits.
Kristofferson released his second album, The Silver Tongued Devil and I in 1971; the album was a success and established Kristofferson's career as a recording artist. Not long after, Kristofferson made his acting debut in The Last Movie (directed by Dennis Hopper). In 1972, he acted in Cisco Pike and released his third album, Border Lord. He swept the Grammies that year with numerous songs nominated and several winning song of the year.
For the next few years, Kristofferson focused on acting. He appeared in Blume in Love and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and also married Rita Coolidge. With his new wife, Kristofferson released an album called Full Moon, another success buoyed by numerous hit singles and Grammy nominations. Artists like Ronnie Milsap and Johnny Duncan continued to record Kristofferson's material with much success, but his own rough voice and anti-pop sound kept his own audience to a minimum. He continued acting, in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Vigilante Force, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, and A Star Is Born (with Barbra Streisand). His next film, Freedom Road, did not earn a theatrical release in the US and he divorced Rita Coolidge. Meanwhile, more artists were taking his songs to the top of the charts, including Lena Martell ("One Day at a Time") and Willie Nelson, whose Willie Nelson Sings Kris Kristofferson LP was a smash success. Kristofferson's next film was Heaven's Gate, a phenomenal failure that temporarily ended his acting career.
In 1982, Kristofferson married again, to Lisa Meyers, and concentrated on films for a time, appearing in The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck, Flashpoint and Songwriter. The latter also starred Willie Nelson and Kristofferson was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. Music from Songwriter (an album of duets between Nelson and Kristofferson) was a massive country success. Nelson and Kristofferson continued their partnership, and added Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash to form the supergroup The Highwaymen. Their first album, Highwayman was a huge success, and the group continued working together for a time. In 1985, Kristoferson starred in Trouble in Mind and released Repossessed, a politically aware album that was a country success, particularly "They Killed Him" (also performed by Bob Dylan), a tribute to his heroes, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, and Mohandas Gandhi. Kristofferson also appeared in Amerika at about the same time; the mini-series was controversial, hypothesizing life under Communist domination. Lone Star (1996 film) reinvigorated Kristofferson's acting career, and he soon appeared in Blade, Blade II, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, Fire Down Below, Tim Burton's remake of Planet of the Apes and Payback.
Kristofferson has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
His newest album is called "This Old Road" and was released to critical acclaim last December.