October 2

Sammi Smith and the Song to Self-Soothe Her Turbulent Years

Help Me Make It Through the Night- a song written by Kris Kristofferson in 1970 and covered by Sammi Smith in 1971. It worked out well for the then moderately known singer. Though Kristofferson had earlier recorded and released the song, Smith’s version climbed to the top of Country Chart, became a gold record and earned her and Kristofferson Grammy awards; one for The Best Country Song and as The Best Female Vocalist of the year.


Critics at that time react to the female version of a song with lyrics that to them, had sexual innuendos. Hence, when another recording was proposed to Dottie West, she declined. Regardless, that did not stop the allure of the song to creep into the musical tastes of radio listeners both for country and pop.

Checking Kristofferson’s background though, the song is more reflective of the deep loneliness he felt with years of tormented life. Sammi Smith was no stranger to that feeling either. She had her share of a rough childhood, got married at the tender age of 15, bore kids, and went through two divorces.

As for Dottie West, though she eventually recorded Kristofferson’s song, she did not get the same success as Smith’s. She was regretful for turning down the opportunity when it was first offered her.


Her success with Help Me Make It Through the Night may not have been replicated, yet she still managed to maintain a solid musical career the following years until the early 1980’s. She joined Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings in their outlaw movement and forged friendships with them. They became family friends and Waylon became the godfather of her son, Waylon Payne.

She continued writing songs, recording, and performing.  Two of her songs reached top ten while the rest were still best sellers. Her last hit to be remembered was Love Me All Over in 1986. She also remarried, ran a cattle ranch with her husband, and lived a fruitful life of 61 years until February 2005.




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