I happened to get an issue of Rolling Stone magazine this year, and there’s a story called Kris Kristofferson: An Outlaw at 80, about how “one of the greatest songwriters of all time (covered by Johnny Cash… Elvis Presley and some 500 others)” was experiencing an “increasingly debilitating memory loss.” It turns out it wasn’t Alzheimer’s or dementia, but Lyme disease.
His first album, released as Kristofferson in 1970, was rereleased, with a nicer cover, a year later, as Me and Bobby McGee, named for the posthumous #1 song by Janis Joplin that he wrote. Some of the songs on that album include Help Me Make It Through the Night, For the Good Times, and Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, all hits for other people.
His second album, The Silver Tongued Devil and I, featured Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again), a minor hit for Roger Miller, and got to #26 on the pop charts for Kristofferson. It also contains my favorite Kris Kristofferson lyrics, from The Pilgrim, Chapter 33:
He’s a poet, an’ he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, an’ he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction
Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home
His biggest single recording was Why Me, which got to #16 in 1973, from his fourth album, Jesus Was a Capricorn. He also recorded with his second wife Rita Coolidge.
Kris Kristofferson is also an actor, appearing in several films, before becoming a Movie Star in A Star is Born, with Barbra Streisand.
Now that he has most of his memory back, he’s listening to the old songs again, “to get reacquainted with his life’s work. ‘It just takes you back like a picture of something would,’ he says. ‘I was also interested in seeing if they still sounded good to me,’ he continues. ‘I’ve been pleasantly surprised, particularly with this one.’ He points to his third album, Border Lord. ‘I can remember at the time being so disappointed at the reception it got.’
“His wife [since 1983, Lisa] sits to his left and looks at him, beaming at his recall. ‘To me, the song is what matters, not necessarily the performances,’ he says as he moves a napkin to examine a picture of him in his twenties, looking disheveled in his meager Nashville bedroom. ‘Just the words and melody – that’s what moves your emotions.'”
“‘I may have some more creative work in me,’ he finally admits, then concludes on a characteristically impassive note. “But if I don’t, it’s not going to hurt me.'”
“Blame It on the Stones”
“To Beat the Devil”
“Me and Bobby McGee”
“Best of All Possible Worlds”
“Help Me Make It Through the Night” which gets ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ right and wrong in the same song
“The Law Is for Protection of the People”
“For the Good Times”
“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”
“The Silver Tongued Devil and I”
“Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)”
“The Pilgrim, Chapter 33”