Me and Bobby McGee
Kris Kristofferson is an Academy Award nominated, Golden Globe and Grammy award winning American actor and country music songwriter and singer known for creating hits like “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down,” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” He won two Grammy Awards for his duet songs “From the Bottle to the Bottom” (1973) and “Love Please” (1975) and picked up his Oscar nomination for scoring the Alan Rudolph directed “Songwriter” (1984), where he also costarred with Willie Nelson. “This Old Road,” his first album full of new material in 11 years, was released in 2006. Along with Nelson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, Kristofferson also found some victory with the group The Highwaymen, which spawned such hit albums as “Highwayman” (1985) and “Highwayman 2” (1990).
As an actor, Kristofferson gained praise for his work in “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” (1973) and enjoyed success with his Golden Globe winning portrayal of rock star John Norman Howard in “A Star is Born” (1976). He had to deal with a career decline after starring in the major box office flop “Heaven's Gate” (1980). With “Lone Star” (1996), he had the opportunity to renew his career and has since acted in countless movies, most notably the “Blade” Trilogy (1998, 2002 and 2004), “Planet of the Apes” (2001), “Silver City” (2004), “The Jacket” (2005), “Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story” (2005), “Fast Food Nation” (2006), “Jump Out Boys” (2008) and “He's Just Not That Into You” (2008).
Kristofferson was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1977 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985. He became an inductee at the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004 and two years later, was honored with the Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He won the Johnny Cash Visionary Award at the 2007 CMT, which was presented by Cash's daughter, Rosanne. In a phone interview, he said, “John was my hero before he was my friend and anything with his name on it is really an honor in my eyes.”
As for his personal life, Kristofferson has been married three times. He was married to first wife Frances Beer from 1961 to 1969 and his second wife, singer/actress Rita Coolidge, from 1973 to 1980. The marriages produced three children. With current wife Lisa Meyers, whom he has been living with for the past 25 years, Kristofferson has five children. His romantic life has also been involved with multi-faceted entertainer Barbra Streisand (dated briefly in the 1970s) and the late singer Janis Joplin (together in 1969). In 1999, Kristofferson underwent an elective heart bypass.
Childhood and Family:
Kristoffer Kristofferson was born on June 22, 1936, in Brownsville, Texas, to Mary Ann and Luis Henry Kristofferson. Due to his father’s job in the Air Force, Kris and his siblings, Karen (born 1938) and Kraigher (born 1943), grew up in various places before his family finally settled in San Mateo, California. There, he attended San Mateo High School and emerged as a Golden Glove boxer. After graduating, he enrolled at Pomona College in Claremont, California, and received a BA in Creative Literature in 1958. He next won a Rhodes scholarship to the University of Oxford, from which he earned a master's degree in English Literature in 1960. As an undergraduate, Kris became a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity.
On February 11, 1961, Kris married his old girlfriend Frances Beer, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1969 after producing two children, daughter Tracy Kristofferson (born in 1962) and son Kris Kristofferson (born in 1968). He remarried on August 19, 1973, to actress/singer Rita Coolidge (born on May 1, 1944), but that bond also ended in divorce in 1980. The couple shares a daughter named Casey Kristofferson who was born in 1974. Kris married his present wife, Lisa Meyers, on February 19, 1983. Together, they have five children, Jesse Turner Kristofferson (born in 1984), Jody Kristofferson (born in 1985), Johnny Kristofferson (born in 1988), Kelly Kristofferson (born in 1991) and Blake Kristofferson (born in 1994).
A Star Is Born
“It would have made my daddy proud. 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.” Kris Kristofferson
While studying in England, Texas native Kris Kristofferson started writing songs and working with his manager Larry Parnes. Using the name Kris Carson, he became a folk singer and recorded for Top Rank Records. Upon earning his master's degree and back state side, Kristofferson began his military career and reached the rank of Captain. After receiving flight training at Fort Rucker in southeastern Alabama, he became a helicopter pilot, and later, during the early 1960s, he was sent to West Germany and made a return to music and founded a band. In 1965, he quit his commission to pursue his lifelong dream, songwriting, and moved to Nashville to work professionally. At the time, Kristofferson had just been appointed to become an English Literature professor at West Point, but he left the post after spending a few weeks in Nashville with songwriters and musicians.
Once living in Nashville, the struggling Kristofferson was forced to take various odd jobs like sweeping floors at Columbia Studios and becoming a janitor at the studio. He also worked as a commercial helicopter pilot for the Lafayette, Louisiana, based firm Petroleum Helicopters International (PHI). His songwriting career started to flourish in 1966 when Dave Dudley released Kristofferson's single called “Viet Nam Blues.” He signed to Epic Records the next year and released the single “Golden Idol,” but it was a flop. Undaunted, Kristofferson kept on writing songs and within the next few years, his songs dominated the charts. Among them were “Jody and the Kid” (by Roy Drusky), “Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down” (by Ray Stevens), “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Best of all Possible Worlds” and “Darby's Castle” (all by Roger Miller) and “Once More with Feeling” (by Jerry Lee Lewis).
Kristofferson also found some success as a performer himself thanks to the introduction of Johnny Cash to Kristofferson at the Newport Folk Festival. As a recording artist, he signed with Monument Records, which was run by Fred Foster who was also the manager of Combine Music, Kristofferson's songwriting label. His self-titled debut album was launched in 1970, which was comprised of a few new songs and many of his old hits. The album received miserable sales, but when the album was re-released the following year under the title “Me & Bobby McGee,” it was successful. Meanwhile, Kristofferson was still in high demand for his compositions. He scored hits with such singles as Waylon Jennings' “The Taker,” Bobby Bare's “Come Sundown” and Sammi Smith's “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” His song “For the Good Times,” which was recorded by Ray Price, even won a Song of the Year award from the 1970 Academy of Country Music. However, it was “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (1970) by Johnny Cash that brought Kristofferson two Country Music Associations in the categories of Song of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. Kristofferson released his second album, “The Silver Tongued Devil and I,” in 1971. It was well-received.
After a thriving music career, Kristofferson branched out to acting and made his debut with a small part in the film “The Last Movie” (1971), directed by Dennis Hopper. His first leading role arrived the next year when he won the title role of a rock star-turned-drug dealer in Bill L. Norton's “Cisco Pike,” opposite Karen Black and Gene Hackman. 1972 also saw the release of Kristofferson's third album, “Border Lord,” an album with all-new material that was considered a failure. His fourth album, “Jesus Was a Capricorn,” followed later that same year and scored a hit single with the third song “Why Me.” The success of the single helped the album reach No. 1 on the country charts the following year.
Kristofferson returned to acting in 1973 by making three films, including Sam Peckinpah’s “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” and Paul Mazursky's “Blume in Love.” The first film found Kristofferson offering a strong performance as a famous felon named William H. Bonney (Billy the Kid), opposite James Coburn as Sheriff Pat Garrett, and was nominated for a 1974 BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer. It was also in 1973 that Kristofferson and his second wife, singer Rita Coolidge, released a duo album called “Full Moon,” which spawned the Grammy winning song “From the Bottle to the Bottom.” Kristofferson could next be seen acting in such films as “Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore” (1974, as Ellen Burstyn's lover), “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” (1974, again directed by Sam Peckinpah), “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea” (1976, with Sarah Miles) and “Vigilante Force” (1976). His movie career gained a significant boost when he won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy for his portrayal of talented rock star John Norman Howard on the Frank Pierson remake “A Star is Born” (1976), opposite Barbra Streisand. Meanwhile, as a musician, Kristofferson had to deal with a commercial disappointment with his fifth album, “Spooky Lady's Sideshow” (released in May 1974), but soon rebounded with his next duo album with his wife, “Breakaway” (released in December 1974). The duet song “Love Please” brought the couple their second Grammy award in 1975.
However, Kristofferson's career seemed to suffer a setback in the late 1970s. His ninth album, “Shake Hands with the Devil” (1979), produced no hits while his film “Freedom Road” (also 1979) did not receive a theatrical release in the U.S. It became worse in 1980 when Kristofferson took on the starring role in Michael Cimino's “Heaven's Gate,” which was a big box office flop. After roles in “The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck” and “Flashpoint” (1984), he bounced back with Alan Rudolph's “Songwriter” (all 1984), opposite Willie Nelson. Kristofferson received a Best Original Song Score Oscar for his work in the film. Meanwhile, “Music from Songwriter” (1984), a duet album with Nelson, became a huge country hit.
Kristofferson and Nelson continued their collaboration and with the addition of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, they formed the group The Highwaymen. The first album “Highwayman” (1985) received strong sales. Kristofferson rejoined Alan Rudolph in 1985 for “Trouble in Mind,” but spent the rest of the decade working primarily for television projects, including the CBS movie “The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James” (1986, opposite Nelson and Cash), the remake of “Stagecoach” (1986, won a Bronze Wrangler from the Western Heritage) and the ABC miniseries “Amerika” (1987). In 1986, Kristofferson released the country hit album, “Repossessed.”
Entering the 1990s, Kristofferson and The Highwaymen launched “Highwayman 2” (1990), which was also a huge success. Although he went on to enjoy success with the Highwaymen, his solo recording career dropped in the early 1990s. While his music career stalled, he found himself acting in many TV films, including “Pair of Aces” (1990) and its 1991 sequel, Arnold Schwarzenegger's TV directorial debut “Christmas in Connecticut” (1992), Showtime's “Sodbusters” (1994) and “Tad” (1995), and in such movies as “Paper Hearts” (1993) and “Pharaoh's Army” (1995). In 1996, Kristofferson experienced a Renaissance in his acting career with John Sayles' “Lone Star,” in which he had a memorable small part as Sheriff Charlie Wade. Subsequently, he was cast in numerous motion pictures, including “Fire Down Below” (1997, with Steven Seagal), James Ivory's “A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries” (1998), “Blade” (1998, costarred with Wesley Snipes and Stephen Dorff as Abraham Whistler), the Mel Gibson vehicle “Payback” (1999, as a villain named Bronson) and “Limbo” (1999, rejoined John Sayles). At the end of the decade, he launched the album “The Austin Sessions. “
In the new millennium, Kristofferson maintained an active presence in the cinematic industry. He costarred with Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth and Helena Bonham Carter in Tim Burton's remake of “Planet of the Apes” (2001), was cast as a writer in the Ethan Hawke directed “Chelsea Walls” (2001) and supported Sylvester Stallone and Charles S. Dutton in “D-Tox” (2002) before reprising his role as Abraham Whistler in the installment “Blade II” (2002) and “Blade: Trinity” (2004). He was also featured with Chris Cooper, Daryl Hannah and Richard Dreyfuss in John Sayles’ political satire, “Silver City” (2004), teamed up with Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley and Jennifer Jason Leigh for the psychological thriller “The Jacket” (2005), portrayed Pop Crane in the family drama “Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story” (2005), opposite Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning, and costarred with Luke Wilson, Seymour Cassel and Eddie Griffin in the spoof “The Wendell Baker Story” (2005). After appearing in “Disappearances” (2006), he joined the cast of the film “Fast Food Nation” (2006), adapted from a nonfiction book by Eric Schlosser, and starred with Robin Wright Penn in “Room 10” (2006), a strong directorial debut for Jennifer Aniston and Andrea Buchanan. Meanwhile, Kristofferson also released three albums: “Broken Freedom Song” (2003), “Comin' to Your City” (2005) and “This Old Road” (2006).
Recently starring in the short “Crossing the Heart” and narrating the biographical film “I'm Not There” (both 2007), Kristofferson is set to star with DMX in “Jump Out Boys,” support Jessica Biel, Lisa Kudrow and Patrick Swayze in the drama “Powder Blue” and appear with Rachel Nichols, Joanna Cassidy and Skeet Ulrich in the horror/thriller “For Sale by Owner.” He also has roles in the family film “Snow Buddies,” opposite Molly Shannon, and the comedy “He's Just Not That Into You,” alongside Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Long, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Connelly.
Golden Boot: 2003
Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, Television Feature Film, “Two for Texas,” 1999
Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler, “Stagecoach,” 1987
Golden Globe: Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy, “A Star Is Born,” 1977
Grammy: Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo, “Love Please,” 1975
Grammy: Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo, “From the Bottom to the Bottle,” 1973
Country Music Ass ciation: Song of the Year and Songwriter of the Year, “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” 1970
Academy of Country Music: Song of the Year, “For the Good Times,” 1970