I first heard Kris Kristofferson’s music on a juke box at the 19th Hole Bar on Red Road in Miami, Florida in 1972. I was on leave from the Navy to help my best friend get married and fall into the love of my life. At 2am, John, the bartender and owner’s son, would close the bar’s door and the real party began. We would drink and sing along with the 30 or so KK songs on the jukebox. John had a beautiful voice, knew every word to every song and sang in perfect harmony with Kris. I quickly learned the words as well.
After that introduction, I tried to find out stuff about KK. There was no internet back then so most of the information came from magazine articles and the sleeve of record albums. My first KK album was, “Jesus Was a Capricorn”. It had a picture of Kris and his beautiful and talented in her own right, Rita Coolidge. Over time, I found out that that Kris was a renaissance man. He was born on June 22, 1936 in Brownsville, Texas but grew up all over moving in support of his father’s military career. Ended up graduating from high school and college in Southern California with honors in academics and sports (Rugby, a lot and American football, some). Elected Phi Beta Kappa as a junior and ended up as a Rhodes Scholar.
Succumbing to his father’s ambitions for him, Kris became a helicopter pilot, Army Ranger and served in Germany until his tour ended. Rather than take a new assignment teaching English Lit to West Pointers, Kris left the Army to resume his musical interests. His family was pissed but we are glad that he did.
I won’t bore you with all the details of his musical and theatrical accomplishments, of which there are many. His last album, “The Cedar Creek Sessions” was released in 2014 and was nominated for a Grammy. Kris is unique human in a country just packed full of them. Kris has requested that his tombstone should have the first three lines of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire”:
Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free