K – is for Kris Kristofferson

Wednesday 30th December

Can’t remember when I first heard Kris Kristofferson, he seems to have been on my playlist for years, but it must have been around 1970.  The early seventies were incredible, whether or not the revival of American music started when Dylan and the Band decamped to Woodstock or not is debatable, but there was such an outpouring of brilliant new Artists and song-writing just post-Beatles that looking back it seems unbelievable.  Neil Young, Joni, Leonard of course, James Taylor, Carole King and many many others, (stupidly we thought it might continue forever) and one of those new singers was Kris Kristofferson.  He came out of Nashville, and if the story is to be believed he was working as a janitor in a recording studio and writing songs in his spare time.  But what songs!!!

His first album was made to sell his songs, and featured “Me and Bobbie McGee” and “Help Me Make It through The Night” but there isn’t a poor song on the record.  His voice is like raw honey, sweet and rough and totally delicious; it was a perfect mix of country and rock and almost defined the ‘Americana’ genre.  Such was this album’s success that he went on the road and sampled the rock’n’roll lifestyle for a few years, releasing a string of hit albums.  He and Rita Coolidge became an item and also released a few records together, but I felt he was going a bit soft at this point.  He had a hit duet with Barbara Streisand and appeared in quite a few films too.  But he never abandoned his music; he joined with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Ricky Nelson to form the Highwaymen – another hit collaboration.

Lately he has returned to a simpler stripped back sound, and still keeps making decent records.  But for me, like so many others, it is those first few early seventies records that are his best.  I have most on CD now, but his third ‘Border Lord’ (and one of his best) was only out on CD for a short while; it now command prices in excess of £300 for a copy (I have it on tape only – but am waiting for its re-release one day).  Also a couple of his Rita collaborations are unavailable at all on CD….boohoo.

And for the record, though there have been many many covers of Kris Kristofferson songs, nobody sings “Sunday Morning Coming Down” or “Loving Her Was Easier” or even “Me and Bobbie McGee” (sorry Janis) as good as Kris does.

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