KRIS KRISTOFFERSON Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Name: Kristoffer Kristofferson                                                             
Born: 22 June 1936 Brownsville, Texas, USA                                                 
Kristoffer "Kris" Kristofferson (born June 22, 1936) is an influential American             
country music songwriter, singer and actor. He is best known for hits such as "Me           
and Bobby McGee", "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", and "Help Me Make It Through the           
Night". Kristofferson is the sole writer of most of his songs, but he has                   
collaborated with various other figures of the Nashville scene such as Shel                 
Silverstein and Fred Rumfelt.                                                               
Kristofferson was born in Brownsville, Texas. Like most military brats he moved             
around much as a youth; he finally settled down in San Mateo, California, where             
he graduated from San Mateo High School. Kristofferson's father was an Air Force           
general who pushed his son toward a military career. Kristofferson got his first           
dose of fame when he appeared in Sports Illustrated's "Faces In The Crowd" for             
his achievements in rugby union, football, and track and field. An aspiring                 
writer, Kristofferson earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University (Merton             
College, Oxford) after previously attending Pomona College. While in England,               
Kristofferson began writing songs and working with his manager Larry Parnes; he             
recorded for Top Rank Records under the name Kris Carson, but was unsuccessful.             
As an undergraduate, Kristofferson was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity.           
In 1960, Kristofferson graduated with a master's degree in English literature               
and married an old girlfriend, Fran Beer. Kristofferson ultimately joined the U.S.         
Army and achieved the rank of captain. He became a helicopter pilot after                   
receiving flight training at Fort Rucker in southeastern Alabama. Later, during             
the early 1960s, he was stationed in West Germany and returned to music and                 
formed a band. In 1965, he resigned his commission to pursue songwriting. He had           
just been assigned to become an English Literature professor at West Point.                 
Kristofferson sent some of his compositions to a friend's relative, Marijohn               
Wilkin, a successful Nashville, Tennessee, songwriter.                                     
Kristofferson moved to Nashville after resigning his commission in 1965, intent             
on becoming a professional songwriter. He worked a variety of odd jobs while               
struggling to make it in the music business, burdened with expensive medical               
bills as a result of his son's defective esophagus. He and his wife soon                   
He got a job sweeping floors at Columbia Studios in Nashville. There he met                 
Johnny Cash, who initially took some of his songs but ignored them. During                 
Kristofferson's time working as a janitor for Columbia, Bob Dylan was recording             
his landmark 1966 album Blonde on Blonde at the studio. Though Kristofferson was           
able to watch some of the sessions, he never got to meet Dylan because he was               
afraid that he would be fired for approaching him.                                         
He was also working as a commercial helicopter pilot at the time for a south               
Louisiana firm called Petroleum Helicopters International (PHI), based in                   
Lafayette, Louisiana. Kristofferson recalled of his days as a pilot, "That was             
about the last three years before I started performing, before people started               
cutting my songs... I would work a week down here [in south Louisiana] for PHI,             
sitting on an oil platform and flying helicopters. Then I'd go back to Nashville           
at the end of the week and spend a week up there trying to pitch the songs, then           
come back down and write songs for another week... I can remember 'Help Me Make             
It Through The Night' I wrote sitting on top of an oil platform. I wrote 'Bobby             
Mcgee' down here, and a lot of them [in south Louisiana]."                                 
In 1966, Dave Dudley released a successful Kristofferson single, "Viet Nam Blues".         
The following year, Kristofferson signed to Epic Records and released a single,             
"Golden Idol"/"Killing Time", but the song was not successful. Within the next             
few years, more Kristofferson originals hit the charts, performed by Roy Drusky             
("Jody and the Kid"), Billy Walker & the Tennessee Walkers ("From the Bottle to             
the Bottom"), Ray Stevens ("Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down"), Jerry Lee Lewis ("Once           
More with Feeling") Faron Young ("Your Time's Comin'") and Roger Miller ("Me and           
Bobby McGee", "Best of all Possible Worlds", "Darby's Castle"). He also gained             
some success as a performer himself, due to Johnny Cash's introduction of                   
Kristofferson at the Newport Folk Festival.                                                 
Kristofferson got Cash's attention when he unexpectedly landed his helicopter in           
Cash's yard and gave him some tapes including "Sunday Morning Coming Down".                 
Kristofferson signed to Monument Records as a recording artist. The label was               
run by Fred Foster, also manager of Combine Music, Kristofferson's songwriting             
label. His debut album for Monument in 1970 was Kristofferson, which included a             
few new songs as well as many of his previous hits. Sales were poor, although               
this debut album would become a success the following year when it was re-released         
under the title Me & Bobby McGee. Kristofferson's compositions were still in               
high demand. Ray Price ("For the Good Times"), Waylon Jennings ("The Taker"),               
Bobby Bare ("Come Sundown"), Johnny Cash ("Sunday Morning Coming Down") and                 
Sammi Smith ("Help Me Make It Through the Night") all recorded successful                   
versions of his songs in the early 1970s. "For the Good Times" (Ray Price) won 'Song       
of the Year" in 1970 from the Academy of Country Music, while "Sunday Morning               
Coming Down" (Johnny Cash) won the same award from the Academy's rival, the                 
Country Music Association in the same year. This is the only time an individual             
has won the same award from these two organizations in the same year for                   
different songs.                                                                           
In 1971, Janis Joplin, who dated Kris until her death, had a #1 hit with "Me and           
Bobby McGee" from her posthumous Pearl. She performed the definitive version of             
the song as it ranked high on Rolling Stones 500 greatest songs list and stayed             
on the number one spot on the charts for weeks. More hits followed from others:             
Ray Price ("I Won't Mention It Again", "I'd Rather Be Sorry"), Joe Simon ("Help             
Me Make It Through the Night"), Bobby Bare ("Please Don't Tell Me How the Story             
Ends"), O.C. Smith ("Help Me Make It Through the Night") Jerry Lee Lewis ("Me               
and Bobby McGee"), Patti Page ("I'd Rather Be Sorry") and Peggy Little ("I've               
Got to Have You"). Kristofferson released his second album, The Silver Tongued             
Devil and I in 1971; the album was a success and established Kristofferson's               
career as a recording artist in his own right. Not long after, Kristofferson               
made his acting debut in The Last Movie (directed by Dennis Hopper) and appeared           
at the Isle of Wight Festival. In 1972, he acted in Cisco Pike and released his             
third album, Border Lord; the album was all-new material and sales were sluggish.           
He also swept the Grammies that year with numerous songs nominated and several             
winning song of the year. Kristofferson's 1972 fourth album, Jesus Was a                   
Capricorn initially had slow sales, but the third single, "Why Me", was a                   
success and significantly increased album sales.                                           
For the next few years, Kristofferson focused on acting. He appeared in Blume in           
Love (directed by Paul Mazursky) and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (directed by             
Sam Peckinpah) and also married Rita Coolidge in 1973. With his new wife,                   
Kristofferson released an album called Full Moon, another success buoyed by                 
numerous hit singles and Grammy nominations. However, his fifth album, Spooky               
Lady's Sideshow was a commercial failure, setting the trend for most of the rest           
of his career. Artists like Ronnie Milsap and Johnny Duncan continued to record             
Kristofferson's material with much success, but his amazing yet none-the-less               
rough voice and anti-pop sound kept his own audience to a minimum. He continued             
acting, in Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Convoy, (another           
Sam Peckinpah film which was released in 1978), Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore,           
Vigilante Force, a film based on the Yukio Mishima novel The Sailor Who Fell               
from Grace with the Sea, and A Star Is Born (with Barbra Streisand). In spite of           
his success with Streisand, Kristofferson's career was heading downward with the           
non-charting ninth album, Shake Hands with the Devil. His next film, Freedom               
Road, did not earn a theatrical release in the U.S. He and Rita Coolidge then               
divorced in 1980. Meanwhile, more artists were taking his songs to the top of               
the charts, including Willie Nelson, whose Willie Nelson Sings Kris                         
Kristofferson LP was a smash success. Kristofferson's next film was Heaven's               
Gate, a phenomenal industry changing failure in which he turned in a nuanced               
In 1982, Kristofferson participated (with Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and                 
Brenda Lee) on The Winning Hand, a country success that failed to break into               
mainstream audiences. He then married again, to Lisa Meyers, and concentrated on           
films for a time, appearing in The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck, Flashpoint and               
Songwriter. The latter also starred Willie Nelson. Kristofferson was nominated             
for an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. Music from Songwriter (an               
album of duets between Nelson and Kristofferson) was a massive country success.             
Nelson and Kristofferson continued their partnership, and added Waylon Jennings             
and Johnny Cash to form the supergroup The Highwaymen. Their first album,                   
Highwayman was a huge success, and the supergroup continued working together for           
a time. In 1985, Kristofferson starred in Trouble in Mind and released                     
Repossessed, a politically aware album that was a country success, particularly             
"They Killed Him" (also performed by Bob Dylan), a tribute to his heroes,                   
including Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, and Mohandas Gandhi. Kristofferson               
also appeared in Amerika at about the same time; the mini-series was                       
controversial, hypothesizing life under Communist domination.                               
In spite of the success of Highwayman 2 in 1990, Kristofferson's solo recording             
career slipped significantly in the early 1990s, though he continued to record             
successfully with the Highwaymen. Lone Star (1996 film) reinvigorated                       
Kristofferson's acting career, and he soon appeared in Blade, Blade II, Blade:             
Trinity, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, Fire Down Below, Tim Burton's remake             
of Planet of the Apes, "Chelsea Walls" Payback, The Jacket and Fast Food Nation.           
Kristofferson was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985 and the               
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1977. 1999 saw the release of The Austin             
Sessions. An album on which Kristofferson reworked some of his favorite songs               
with the help of befriended artists such as Mark Knopfler, Steve Earle and                 
Jackson Browne. In 2003 Broken Freedom Song was released, a live album recorded             
in San Francisco.                                                                           
In 2004 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2006, he                   
received the Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame and released             
his first album full of new material in 11 years; This Old Road. On April 21               
2007, Kristofferson won CMT's Johnny Cash Visionary Award. Rosanne Cash, Cash's             
daughter, presented the honor during the April 16 awards show in Nashville.                 
Previous recipients include Cash, Hank Williams Jr., Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire           
and the Dixie Chicks. "John was my hero before he was my friend, and anything               
with his name on it is really an honor in my eyes," Kristofferson said during a             
phone interview. "I was thinking back to when I first met him, and if I ever               
thought that I'd be getting an award with his name on it, it would have carried             
me through a lot of hard times."                                                           
In July 2007, Kristofferson was featured on CMT's "Studio 330 Sessions" where he           
played many of his hits.