Who is Kris Kristofferson?
Kris Kristofferson had a slow start in his career. His big break came when in 1971, Janis Joplin’s version of his song “Me and Bobby McGee” reached the top of the charts. Before this breakthrough, country stars like Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded his songs.
Roles in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, A Star is Born, Lone Star and the Blade films showcased Kristofferson’s remarkable acting chops. Throughout the years, he maintained his illustrious career as a singer, songwriter, actor, and performer.
Adding to seeing his songs top the charts for most of his life, Kris Kristofferson bagged several Grammy Awards. He was also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Life Background and Tough Beginning
Kris Kristofferson was born on June 22, 1936, in Brownsville, Texas. He was the first of three children in a conservative military family. As a young lad, his family often moved around until they found a home in San Mateo, California.
After graduating from high school, Kristofferson attended Pomona College in Southern California. He dedicated his time to creative writing and the poetry of William Blake. Kristofferson won several awards for his works including 1st prize in a short-story contest held by The Atlantic Monthly. He was also involved with the school’s football team and was a Golden Gloves Boxer.
In 1958, Kristofferson graduated from college with honors. He also attained a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University. In the same year, Kristofferson moved to England to pursue his master’s degree in literature.
Soon, he started performing and singing the songs he wrote. In clubs, he was known as Kris Carson. His recordings with small labels, however, failed to get recognition. Kristofferson went home where he married his high school girlfriend, Frances Beer.
Facing various decisions in his life, he chose to follow his father’s footsteps and enlisted himself to join the military. During his time with the U.S. Army, he was trained as a ranger and helicopter pilot before being stationed at West Germany. Kristofferson held his love for writing and music which led him to organize a soldiers’ band that performed at various functions.
In 1965, Kristofferson was promoted as captain. He was offered a job at the West Point military academy to teach English. However, a trip to Nashville, the musical mecca, changed the course of Kristofferson’s life. He later rejected his job offer, resigned in the army, and went on to become a country music songwriter.
Kristofferson’s chosen career was not an easy one. This caused a severe strain in his relationship with his parents. He never spoke to his mother for more than 20 years.
He signed with Bighorn Music after moving his wife and their daughter Tracy to Nashville. Kristofferson’s debut single, “Golden Idol”, however, failed to chart in the 1970s. His struggles intensified when his second child, Kris, was born with health problems resulting in the soar of medical bills. The inadequate income led Kristofferson to do odd jobs for the next several years. Through all these bumps, Kris Kristofferson’s resolve as a songwriter only grew stronger.
Despite these challenges, Kristofferson was making progress with other artists recording his songs. His “Viet Nam Blues” and “Jody and the Kid” made it into the country charts.
In 1969, Roger Miller’s cover of his song “Me and Bobby McGee” climbed the Country’s Top 20. His songs caught the attention of Johnny Cash. Kristofferson later became a guest on Cash’s television show and was also introduced at the Newport Folk Festival. This granted Kristofferson’s career a much-needed lift.
Stability at Last
In 1970, Kris released his self –titled album,Kristofferson. Though his album was a commercial failure, other artists started doing covers of his songs. Among them were Waylon Jennings’s version of “The Taker” and Sammi Smith’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” By the end of the year, Ray Price’s version of “For Good Times” and Cash’s version of “Sunday Morning Coming Down” reached the top of the charts.
With all these coming in place, Pearl, Janis Joplin’s album, was released. In it was her cover of “Me and Bobby McGee.” The song reached Number 1 on the pop charts in March. This gave Joplin and Kristofferson their biggest hits. This success paved the way for another album, “The Silver Tongued Devil and I.” Unlike his previous works, this album went gold.
Other artists who also made covers of ” Me and Bobby McGee” were Kenny Rogers, Chet Atkins, Olivia Newton-John and Dolly Parton.
While Kris Kristofferson was making a name as a songwriter, he also proved himself as an adept actor. His first appearance on the big screen was with the drama, “The Last Movie (1971)” directed by Dennis Hopper. Kristofferson’s film offers would even include special features of his songs. Thus, making his music unforgotten as he’d been contributing various tracks for films.
Among Kris Kristofferson’s most memorable character portrayals in the 1970s were his starring role opposite Gene Hackman in Cisco Pike (1972), as Billy the Kid in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garret and Billy the Kid (1973), and co-starring role opposite Ellen Burstyn in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
He also released the albums Border Lord and Spooky Lady’s Sideshow. Neither performed especially well. He did, however, had a No.1 country music hit with “Why Me” (1973).
What’s Kris Kristofferson Up To Now?
Kris Kristofferson’s career continued to blossom until the next decade. This includes a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and the PEN Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award in 2014. In the same year, Kristofferson publicly revealed that he was suffering from a disease known as pugilistica. It’s a type of Alzheimer’s which doctors associated with the time he was a football player and a boxer.
Despite his illness,Kris Kristofferson continued to tour extensively with a box set of his first 11 albums, “The Complete Monument & Columbia Album Collection.” This was released on June 10, 2016.