Only a few people had a career anywhere close to that of Kris Kristofferson. From being a country music singer and songwriter to film actor and 1970’s sex symbol – the legendary Kristofferson, who recently turned 84 years old, is still pinching himself that it’s real.
Here are some things you might not have known about the “Help Me Make It Through the Night” singer.
6. He Was A Golden Gloves Boxer
It may be hard to imagine, but Kris Kristofferson used to be a Golden Gloves boxer. This means he was a talented amateur boxer. He had Rocky Graziano and Muhammad Ali as his big boxing heroes.
And adding to his tough-as-nails persona, he played rugby, football, and track and field, when he attended Pomona College. He was even featured in Sports Illustrated for his incredible skills in sports.
5. He Was A Captain In The Army
Kris Kristofferson came from a long line of veterans. Kristofferson joined the U.S. Army under the pressure of his family to follow in the footsteps of his two-star Air Force General father. He trained as a Ranger and a helicopter pilot, eventually reached the rank of Captain while being stationed in Germany.
But then he received orders to teach English literature at West Point, which he turned down to pursue a career in music. The move has caused his family to sever ties with him. He is rumored not to have spoken to his mother for over twenty years as a result.
“She said that I was an embarrassment to the family,” he recalled about his mother, who sent him a scathing letter disowning him. “I’ve given them moments of pride when I got my Rhodes scholarship, but she said, ‘They’ll never measure up to the tremendous disappointment you’ve always been.’ Why tell your kid that?”
4. He Landed A Helicopter In Johnny Cash’s Yard To Get His Attention
The old tale is true! Kristofferson was already a brilliant songwriter even before he officially became one. The only problem was that he was struggling to get noticed in Nashville.
So while he was working as a janitor at the Columbia Records offices in the Music City, he made friends with June Carter, who would pass on demos of Kristofferson’s songs on to her husband, Johnny Cash. But as the story goes, Kris Kristofferson took a much broader gesture to get the Man in Black’s attention.
Kris Kristofferson, working part-time as a helicopter pilot for the Army Reserve, landed a National Guard chopper on the lawn of the Hendersonville house to hand-deliver demos to Cash.
“As I approached, out stepped Kris Kristofferson, with a beer in one hand and a tape in the other,” Cash said. “I stopped, dumbfounded. He grabbed my hand, put the tape in it, grinned, and got back into the helicopter and was gone.” Now, that’s one way to get noticed, and it paid off.
In the early 1970s, Kris Kristofferson finally achieved huge success as a country songwriter. His hits like “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” and “For the Good Times” started topping the charts.
3. He And Rock Star Janis Joplin Dated For A While
The two Texas natives shared a brief time together before Janis Joplin’s unexpected death in 1970. The rockstar recorded Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and released it on her album, Pearl. It was an instant success. It gained Kristofferson his first No.1 hit across the world and Joplin’s ultimate last.
2. He Once Suffered Memory Loss But Still Recalls Lyrics
In 2013, the longtime musician revealed the sad news about his growing struggle with memory loss. Some days, Kristofferson could not even remember what he was doing from one moment to the next. But despite that, he still recalls lyrics.
“I wish my memory weren’t so bad,” Kristofferson said. “They tell me it’s from all the football and boxing and the concussions that I got. A couple of years ago, my memory just started going. But I can remember my songs, so I can perform but other than that …”
It turned out he did not have Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it was from Lyme disease, which can cause memory loss or brain fog. With proper treatment, Kristofferson was back on the road, doing all the things he loves, and being his blazing, irreverent self again. He has recovered “like Lazarus coming out of the grave and being born again.”
1. His Biggest Accomplishment Has Nothing To Do With Any Of His Professional Achievements
Though the Country Music Hall of Fame member has had a successful career that spanned over 50 years, he said his biggest accomplishment has nothing to do with any of his professional achievements.
“I am very lucky. And on top of that, I have a wife that has been married to me for 33 years, and I have got eight children, and they all like me,” the singer proudly said. “I am very blessed and am at a very good point in my life.”