Five years ago, Lady A, Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Brandy Clark, and surprise guest Raul Malo joined the legendary Kris Kristofferson for Nashville’s online concert series called Skyville Live. It was broadcasted live in front of an audience of less than 200 inside its namesake Nashville studio, but with an unlimited web audience.
“Kris Kristofferson is the greatest songwriter alive today,” Willie Nelson declared in a pre-taped introduction. And for the next hour and a half, Kristofferson’s unparalleled talents were celebrated and complemented by fellow musicians whose own careers he has incredibly influenced.
Their setlist was a mix of the man of the hour’s classics and the accompanying artists’ own hits. Lady A joined Kristofferson to kick the night off with a heartbreaking ballad covered by everyone from Elvis Presley and Loretta Lynn to Olivia Newton-John and Mariah Carey: “Help Me Make It Through the Night.”
“His songwriting is unlike anybody else,” Dave Haywood of Lady A told Rolling Stone Country before the show. “Our whole format is based around these songs he wrote. It’s amazing how worldwide of an artist he is, what he’s accomplished, how many people have covered these songs.”
“It’s unreal just to be around him, in his presence,” bandmate Charles Kelley added. “He’s constantly smiling.”
The Song That Stirred Up Controversy in the 1970s
Kris Kristofferson wrote, “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” sings of a man’s yearning for sexual intimacy. The song became controversial when released on Kristofferson’s 1970 album Kristofferson, especially when it was first covered by a woman, country singer Sammi Smith.
Smith’s recording reached No. 1 on the U.S. country charts and won the Grammy Award for Best Country Music Female performance.
“Take the ribbon from your hair. Shake it loose and let it fall. Lay it soft against my skin, like the shadows on the wall. Come and lay down by my side, till the early morning light. All I’m takin’ is your time. Help me make it through the night,” the song begins.
During his time as a struggling songwriter, Kristofferson got the song’s inspiration after reading an Esquire Magazine interview with Frank Sinatra. When asked what he believed in, Sinatra replied, “Booze, broads, or a bible…whatever helps me make it through the night.”
He wrote and composed the song when he was staying with Dottie West and her husband, Bill, at Shy’s Hill Road in Nashville’s Green Hills neighborhood. He offered West the song; however, she originally claimed it was “too suggestive” for her.
Eventually, West would record it before the year was out, and it was included on her album Careless Hands. Yet, several others had already recorded and released versions of it by then; some garnered great success.
Later on, West said that not recording “Help Me Make It Through The Night” when Kristofferson initially offered it to her was one of the greatest regrets of her career; though her version charted, it was not as successful as Smith’s version had been.
Numerous other artists covered it soon after that, including Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell, Joan Baez, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, among others.
Tune in below and enjoy the moment when Lady A joined the legendary Kristofferson for Nashville’s online concert with their breathtaking rendition of “Help Me Make It Through the Night.”
kris kristofferson, Lady Antebellum
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