The Hodgepodge: A Historical Snapshot of Kris Kristofferson

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From left to right: Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings

“Renaissance Man” may be the perfect way to describe Kris Kristofferson. Kris attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He was a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army. He was an athlete in high school running distance, playing rugby, football, and was a Golden Gloves boxer. After leaving the Army in 1965, Kristofferson was offered a teaching position at West Point. After the offer came through, Kristofferson says, “I was in Nashville for two weeks on leave between assignments. I just fell in love with the music community that was going on there.” With all those accomplishments and a wealth of high-end opportunities on the horizon, Kris decided to take a different path and remain in Nashville. Call him crazy, but he took a job as a janitor at Columbia Records, intent on finding success as a singer and songwriter in country music.

It took a few years, but Kris Kristofferson eventually found success in Nashville with his songwriting. Roger Miller gave him his first break when he recorded one of Kristofferson’s most well-known songs, “Me and Bobby McGee.” The song was written upon request by Monument Records’ Fred Foster who gave Kris the title “Me and Bobby McKee.” (Bobby McKee was a secretary in the building). But Kris misheard Foster and thought he said “McGee.” Kris found inspiration from the film La Strada and composed the lyrics to one of music’s best songs (in this writer’s opinion).

After Miller recorded “Me and Bobby McGee,” it was Johnny Cash’s recording of “Sunday Morning Coming Down” that thrusted Kris Kristofferson into spotlight. “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was awarded song of the year at the 1970 CMAs. Recognition continued for Kris with his second album Silver Tounged Devil and I being released in 1971, along with some more songwriting nominations for “Help me Make It Through The Night”, “Me and Bobby McGee” and “For the Good Times.”

Kris’ more poetic style of writing didn’t fit in with the Nashville Sound and style that was popular in the 1960s and 70s. He was proud of his writing style and story telling and didn’t waver for anyone, an attitude which rightfully positioned him with the Outlaws alongside Waylon and Willie. And along with Cash, those Outlaws formed the supergroup The Highwaymen and recorded Highwayman, an album whose title track remains one of country’s more famous songs.

When it came to writing, Kris says, “I’ve always felt that it was my was my job to tell the truth as I saw it, just the same as Hank Williams did and the way Bob Dylan did. It was important to me and I think I probably antagonised [sic] some audiences.” Kristofferson had stories to tell and love for music. His devotion to that mindset and attitude trumped everything else. “I was so in love with the thing I was doing, I wasn’t conscious of really not being very successful like the rest of my family was.”

Kristofferson exemplified an Outlaw not because he put up an over-masculine facade or sang songs about being a tough bad-ass, but because he blazed his own path to stardom and success. Kris Kirstofferson didn’t go down the Chet Atkins’ trail of corporate regurgitated country music. He did it his own way, and that’s why he was considered a country outlaw. Kris Kristofferson’s influence on country music holds steady even today. Next month, there will be an all-star tribute show in Kris’ honor. Taking place on March 16 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, The Life & Songs of Kris Kristofferson will feature Willie Nelson, Eric Church, Rosanne Cash, Ryan Bingham, Jamey Johnson, and several others performing Kristofferson songs in honor of Kris’ musical achievements and legacy for country music.

There’s much more to Kris Kristofferson’s legacy. He has a rich history and story about the work he put in and the people he met along the way. For instance, Kristofferson famously landed a helicopter on Johnny Cash’s lawn in his early efforts of getting songs recorded. While Cash wasn’t home at the time of the landing, it nonetheless shows the lengths he went to get his music noticed. His resiliency to make his dream come true is inspiring. Kris Kristofferson put his blood, sweat, and tears into his music and took the long road to find success. The work paid off and he will forever stand as one of country music’s most influential trailblazer.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Tomorrow, Waco Brothers’ Going Down in History will be released.
  • Carolina Ghost from Caleb Caudle will be released tomorrow as well.
  • Granger Smith’s album Remington will hit the shelves March 4.
  • An album I am very much looking forward to: Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter will be released on March 26.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Sunday Morning Coming Down” Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson: Both Cash and Kristofferson have recorded the song, but does it get any better than these two singing the song together? Also, you can tell how proud Kristofferson is to sing his own song alongside Johnny Cash.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Janis Joplin. Sticking with the Kris Kristofferson take over, I suggest you all go listen to Janis Joplin, a singer I could endlessly listen to on shuffle. She and Kristofferson dated for a while up until Joplin’s untimely death. Janis Joplin also recorded “Me and Bobby McGee” for her excellent album, Pearl, which was released posthumously. Janis Joplin also recorded “Piece of My Heart” as lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company. That song was later recorded by Faith Hill in 1994.

Tweet of the Week

That’s enticing, but I probably still wouldn’t join Tidal for that either.

A LoCash iTunes Review

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I’ve only heard “I Love This Life” from the radio, but this review tells me everything I need to know about LoCash, and what I know is I don’t want to listen to them if they’re taking notes from Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt.