Tamworth Rage Page
Helen is no longer updating this website
 
 
Kris Kristofferson
 
Kris Kristofferson: A Friend to Freedom
By Chris Neal
© 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.
 
Kris Kristofferson looks back at the road behind him - and ahead to the future. In November 2004 at the CMA Awards in Nashville, Kristofferson was formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. More than a year later, he still can't quite believe it.

"It makes me feel kind of awestruck," said Kristofferson, enjoying a day off from his current tour in Park City, Utah. "I never envisioned that. I figured that might be a little bit of a stretch, to expect recognition from the powers-that-be."

That's because Kristofferson has always spoken his mind, no matter how unpopular his politics made him, and always made the kind of honest, uncompromised and at times noncommercial music he wanted to make. In his work and his life, the magic word has always been freedom. His dissections of the topic range from "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose" - perhaps the most famous line from one of his most famous songs, "Me And Bobby McGee" - to tunes like "The Burden of Freedom," from his new album, This Old Road, released in March by New West Records.

"It's interesting to see that freedom is still predominant in the songs," he said. "It's always been important in my life, probably starting with my own artistic freedom to do what I wanted and be what I wanted to be, and to be the creative person I thought I was designed to be. It extends from there to respect for other people's freedom."

This Old Road is just the latest expression of Kristofferson's artistic freedom, one that finds the singing, songwriting and acting legend taking a stark look back at his 69 years, and taking stock of his life at the moment. "I imagine it's sort of a reflective look on the whole journey," he said. "The questions that you ask yourself at this end of the race, reflection on the things you've learned along the way and the people you've known and lost. I think each one of the albums that I've done has been a look at what I'm experiencing, and the sense I'm trying to make out of it."

The sound of This Old Road is stripped and spare, inspired by the acoustic tours he's undertaken over the last two years, which have found him performing with only his own guitar and harmonica accompaniment. "It's pretty honest," he said. "After I got over the fear of going out there - not that I'm over that, but once I got past it - I found out that playing acoustic did put a focus on the songs that you don't have when you're able to hide in a band."

The native Texan's acoustic performance at Austin's South By Southwest festival was attended by Don Was, who had produced the singer-songwriter's 1995 Moment Of Forever album, as well as The Road Goes On Forever, the third and final album Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson recorded as The Highwaymen. "I thought he was fantastic," Was said. "There were probably 10,000 people there, and he had 'em all spellbound. I thought his singing sounded stronger when there was less covering it up. After the show I said, 'Why don't we just record you like this?'"

The two made a dry run by laying down 50 songs in a day in the comfort of Kristofferson's bedroom at the house in Maui where he lives with wife Lisa and their five children (he has three more from previous marriages). Satisfied, they picked 11 to record in Los Angeles, using an experimental five-microphone setup meant to allow easy translation into surround sound. "It took about as long to record as it takes to play it," Was said. The producer notes with a laugh that the plans for a surround-sound disc were scrapped, but as a result This Old Road offers an intimate sound portrait of the conditions in the room where it was recorded, including the sound of an air-conditioner blowing, a refrigerator humming and trucks passing by outside.

The arrival of This Old Road came as sweet relief to Kristofferson fans who had waited 11 years since he last released an album of new songs. His most recent studio album, 1999's The Austin Sessions, featured re-recordings of some of the classic songs he's written, including "Sunday Morning Coming Down," "For The Good Times," "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Why Me." They were just a few of the tunes that first made Kristofferson one of Country's most in-demand songwriters in the early 1970s, and helped him carve out a successful singing career of his own - not to mention a sideline as an actor in dozens of films, from 1971's "The Last Movie" to the upcoming "Disappearances."

"Those were interesting days," he said, with characteristic understatement. "It was like I stepped on a roller coaster in 1970, and for 10 years didn't stop to think. I was doing either a movie or going around on the road for 10 years there without a break."

One of the reasons for the decade-long absence from making new music was Kristofferson's desire not to ride that rollercoaster again, preferring to spend time at home raising his young children. There were also record label difficulties and the resurgence of his acting career, among other distractions. "I had different things on my agenda, such as a triple heart bypass!" he said with a laugh. The 1999 operation, he said, "kinda knocked me out for a little while, but I feel fine."

Despite his well-preserved rugged good looks, Kristofferson turned 70 on June 22. Passing that landmark, he said, has made him reflective. "I feel real grateful to still be able to do what I love and make a living at it," he noted. "I think if you last, if you just stay above ground and keep doing something long enough, there gets to be more and more people appreciating what you're doing. It seems to me that I get a respect today that I might not have gotten 20 years ago, and people are giving me the benefit of the doubt." Two decades ago, Kristofferson was making a series of explicitly political albums and publicly criticizing the Reagan administration's policies in Nicaragua and El Salvador. "I got a little unmarketable back there in the '80s," he chuckled.

This Old Road is more personal than political, but is nonetheless suffused with the beliefs and ideals that tell the world Kristofferson's views. Was believes the album is an accurate portrait of who Kristofferson is today - a complex, mature man assessing his blessings while retaining his cutting intellect.

"On the surface, this album would appear to be Kris finally relaxed and mellowed out," said Was. "But if you dig beneath the surface, you see that at the same time there's a lot of irony, and there's a whole lot of edge to it, too. I think he's a brilliant writer. He's the greatest."

On the Web: kriskristofferson.com
Photographer: Mary Ellen Mark
Photo courtesy of New West Records.

 
Therese  Bawden and Kris Kristofferson at concert (Photo Courtesy of Therese)
Penrith Panthers on 16th August
 
Kris and James (Photo Courtesy of Therese)
Penrith Panthers on 16th August
 
Kris Kristofferson
Country music icon, acclaimed singer/songwriter, film star, Rhodes scholar, political and social activist, poet – all these things come to mind when one thinks of Nashville legend Kris Kristofferson.

His induction into the US Country Music Hall of Fame during the CMA Awards at the Grand Old Opry in November last year was a fitting tribute to one of country music’s most noteworthy songwriters and his extraordinary life.

Country music fans are set to rejoice because Kristofferson - writer of such gems as “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, “Me And Bobby McGee”, “Help Me Make It Through The Night”, “For The Good Times” and “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” - has announced an extensive Australian tour for July/August.

These days Kristofferson’s preferred performance mode is in intimate theatres solo acoustic (guitar/harmonica), where fans can share stories of his life and music. Keen to see as much of Australia as he can, the tour will take in 14 cities from Cairns to Darwin, from Hobart to Adelaide and all points between. This will be a very special chance to receive an insight into the man and share an evening with one of country’s greats.

It will be 68-year-old Kristofferson’s first visit to Australia since he toured with friends Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, better known as country music super group The Highwaymen, who released three hit albums across a ten year span. In fact it was country’s other hell raiser Johnny Cash who is credited with being the spark that lit Kristofferson’s career.

With both grandfathers and his father members of the US armed forces, Kristofferson was raised an army brat, becoming an Army captain and helicopter pilot. Earning a prestigious Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University, he moved to the UK and earned his masters degree in Literature. He arrived in Nashville in 1965 with dreams of becoming a songwriter and took up a job as a janitor at Columbia Studios, where he met Johnny Cash.

When Cash covered ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ and then introduced the fledgling singer/songwriter at various concerts, it kick started Kristofferson’s career. It was also the beginning of a lifelong friendship that sadly ended with Kristofferson delivering the eulogy at his friend’s funeral in Nashville last year.

During his 40-year career, he has notched up an enviable collection of number one songs, albums and awards (from Grammy’s to country music’s prestigious CMA Awards).

But most importantly, he was one of the first of the ‘renegade’ country artists, a rough diamond who changed forever the traditionally conservative country music world. More than 450 artists, from Janis Joplin to Marianne Faithfull, have recorded Kristofferson’s songs.

In addition to music, he has also made his mark on film. A role in Dennis Hopper’s “The Last Movie” in 1971 was the first of more than 50 feature films, from Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" to co-starring with Barbara Streisand in "A Star Is Born". He remains in strong demand and is currently shooting a movie in the US.

His recent solo albums 1990’s “Third World Warrior” and 2003’s live “Broken Freedom Song” (Oh Boy Records/Shock) are politically and socially charged as his work as a human rights activist has become more prevalent. Performed acoustically with guitar and harmonica, “Broken Freedom Song” shows the master storyteller still knows how to captivate an audience, promising Australian fans an unforgettable evening.

Special guest artist for all shows will be nine-time Golden Guitar winner James Blundell, also performing solo acoustic. Blundell’s new single ‘Postcards From Saigon’ and album ‘Deluge’ have re-awoken audiences to the talents of this popular singer/songwriter. 
Has a BA in Creative Literature
Graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, California 1958
Rhodes Scholar
 
Marriages
Present wife 1983 - Lisa Meyers - 5 children
1973- 1980 - Rita Coolidge (divorced) 1 child
1960 - 1969 - Fran Beir (divorced) 2 children
 
Health
Underwent elective heart bypass in June 1999
 
Dated Janis but did not write the song "Me and Bobby McGee" for Janis, he found out after
she died that she had all ready recorded it. The song was a hit for Roger Miller in 1969
 
He got his start in the music business by landing a helicopter in Johnny Cash's backyard, presenting him with a song
 
Print out and have the memories