A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Kris Kristofferson helped rejuvenate the Nashville's creative community in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the classics "Help Me Make It Through the Night," "Me and Bobby McGee," "For the Good Times" and "Lovin' Her Was Easier." Hundreds of recording artists have performed his songs. As a concert performer, Kristofferson toured for many years, releasing numerous albums with his long-standing backup band, the Borderlords.
Born June 22, 1936, in Brownsville, Texas, Kristofferson began his music career in the mid-60s when he ended scholarly pursuits in favor of songwriting. The son of an Air Force general, he was a Rhodes scholar, a helicopter pilot and might have been an English Lit professor at West Point, but he gave it all up for a shot at selling some of his songs. Encouraged by a meeting with Johnny Cash, he moved to Nashville in 1965. He pitched songs while working as a night janitor at Columbia studios, emptying ashtrays and pushing a broom.
His turning point came in 1969. Nashville was still the bastion of conservative country music, but a new generation of renegade writers and performers (he and Willie Nelson among them) were bucking the establishment. Cash gave him his break by recording "Sunday Morning Coming Down," which won the Country Music Association's song of the year trophy in 1970. Roger Miller sang "Me and Bobby McGee," and Ray Price recorded "For the Good Times," which won song of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 1970.
He made his recording debut at the same time Janis Joplin's version of "Me and Bobby McGee" went to No. 1. Sammi Smith reached the national Top 10 with "Help Me Make It Through the Night," which won the CMA's single of the year and a Grammy for best country song in 1971. Five subsequent albums, including The Silver-Tongued Devil and I and Jesus Was a Capricorn (which included the hit "Why Me"), went gold. His recordings with then-wife Rita Coolidge won the pair two Grammy awards. In 1973, "From the Bottle to the Bottom" was named best country vocal performance by a duo or group, and "Love Please" garnered the same award in 1975.
He started a movie career in 1971 when he co-starred with Gene Hackman and Harry Dean Stanton in Cisco Pike. He became an instant box-office draw, starring opposite such stars as Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn and Burt Reynolds. He also starred with Barbra Streisand in the classic film A Star Is Born in 1976. While making approximately two films a year, he continued to tour and record.
In the mid-80s, he joined Cash, Nelson and Waylon Jennings to form the Highwaymen. The supergroup's single, "Highwayman," was named the ACM's single of the year for 1985. His 1990 solo album, Third World Warrior, demonstrated his concern for human freedoms. Texas-based indie label Justice Records released A Moment of Forever in 1995. In 1999, he re-recorded some of his best-known tunes for The Austin Sessions, released on Atlantic Records. He teamed with Nelson, Jennings and Texas songwriter Billy Joe Shaver for Honky Tonk Heroes in 2000.
Tom Verlaine and John Doe led the list of rock musicians contributing tracks to 2002's Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down: Tribute to Kris Kristofferson. In 2003, he released another concert album, Broken Freedom Song: Live From San Francisco. The Americana Music Association presented him its 2003 Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award. Cash received the organization's inaugural award in 2002.
Kristofferson has feature roles in at least three films scheduled for release in 2004 -- Blade III (with Wesley Snipes), The Wendell Baker Story (with Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell) and Silver City (directed by John Sayles).