Songwriting legend Kris Kristofferson has been making things happen his entire life. Born in Texas and raised in a military family, he was a Golden Gloves boxer who studied creative writing at Pomona College in California. The Phi Beta Kappa graduate earned a Rhodes scholarship to study literature at Oxford, where he boxed, played rugby and continued to write songs. After graduating from Oxford, Kristofferson served in the army as an Airborne Ranger helicopter pilot and achieved the rank of Captain. In 1965, Kristofferson turned down an assignment to teach at West Point and, inspired by songwriters like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, moved to Nashville to pursue his music.
“When I was in the army, I was one of the few people outside of his personal friends who knew about Willie Nelson,” Kristofferson recalls. “I listened to a disc jockey who happened to be a Willie fan. He would play Willie’s songs and talk about him all the time. By the time I got to Nashville, he was a superhero to me. For guys like me, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson were two gods we worshipped. Then Willie and I got to be best friends. I came from a position of idolizing him to finding out he’s the funniest son of a bitch you could be around.”
After struggling in Music City for several years, Kristofferson achieved remarkable success as a country songwriter at the start of the 1970s. His songs ""Me and Bobby McGee,"" ""Help Me Make It Through the Night,"" ""Sunday Morning Coming Down,"" and ""For the Good Times,"" all chart-topping hits, helped redefine country songwriting. By 1987, it was estimated that more than 450 artists had recorded Kristofferson’s compositions. His renown as a songwriter triggered Kristofferson’s successful career as a performer and that, in turn, brought him to the attention of Hollywood, leading to his flourishing career as a film actor.
Heralded as an artist’s artist, Kristofferson has starred in more than 44 films. He’s recorded in excess of 25 albums, including three with pals Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings as part of the Highwaymen. Kristofferson spent nearly 30 years performing concerts all over the world.
Although Kristofferson is a visible activist for social justice and human rights, he was honored for his work with the armed forces at a ceremony in Los Angeles.
“It would have made my daddy proud,” Kristofferson says. “I grew up in a time when people believed in duty, honor and country. My grandfathers were both officers. My father was a General in the Air Force. My brother and I were both in the Army. I’ve always felt a kinship with soldiers; I think it’s possible to support the warrior and be against the war.”
Kristofferson was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in August of 2003. His friend Willie Nelson was on hand to do the honors.
While his music, film roles, and writing career are thriving, Kristofferson still chooses to spend the majority of his time at home with his wife and children.
“I still feel creative and I’m grateful for that, but I have a big, good-lookin’ family and a place I don’t want to leave,” He says. “That’s all that really matters.”
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