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Kris Kristofferson Biography

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Birth Name: Kristoffer Kristofferson
Born: 1936/06/22
Birth Place: Brownsville, Texas, U.S.
Years Active: 1966–present
Genres: Country, Folk, Rock, Outlaw Country

Kris Kristofferson (born Kristoffer Kristian Kristofferson, June 22, 1936) is an American country music singer, songwriter and musician as well as a film actor.

After leaving the Army in 1965, Kristofferson moved to Nashville. He worked at a variety of odd jobs while struggling for success in music. He got a job sweeping floors at Columbia Studios. There he met Johnny Cash, who initially accepted some of Kristofferson's songs but chose not to use them. During Kristofferson's janitorial stint for Columbia, Bob Dylan recorded his landmark 1966 album “Blonde on Blonde” at the studio. Though he had the opportunity to watch some of Dylan's recording sessions, Kristofferson never met Dylan out of fear that he would be fired for approaching him.

In 1966, Dave Dudley released a successful Kristofferson single, “Viet Nam Blues.” In 1967, Kristofferson signed to Epic Records and released a single, “Golden Idol”/”Killing Time,” but the song was not successful. Within the next few years, more Kristofferson originals hit the charts, performed by Roy Drusky (“Jody and the Kid”), Billy Walker & the Tennessee Walkers (“From the Bottle to the Bottom”), Ray Stevens (“Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down”), Jerry Lee Lewis (“Once More with Feeling”) Faron Young (“Your Time's Comin'”) and Roger Miller (“Me and Bobby McGee,” “Best of all Possible Worlds,” “Darby's Castle”). He achieved some success as a performer himself, following Johnny Cash's introduction of Kristofferson at the Newport Folk Festival.

Kristofferson signed to Monument Records as a recording artist. His debut album for Monument in 1970 was “Kristofferson,” which included a few new songs as well as many of his previous hits. Sales were poor, although this debut album would become a success the following year when it was re-released under the title “Me & Bobby McGee.” Kristofferson's compositions were still in high demand. Ray Price (“For the Good Times”), Waylon Jennings (“The Taker”), Bobby Bare (“Come Sundown”), Johnny Cash (“Sunday Morning Coming Down”) and Sammi Smith (“Help Me Make It Through the Night”) all recorded successful versions of his songs in the early 1970s. “For the Good Times” (Ray Price) won Song of the Year in 1970 from the Academy of Country Music, while “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (Johnny Cash) won the same award from the Academy's rival, the Country Music Association in the same year. This is the only time an individual received the same award from these two organizations in the same year for different songs.

In 1971, Janis Joplin, who dated Kristofferson for some time until her death, had a #1 hit with “Me and Bobby McGee” from her posthumous “Pearl.” When released, it stayed at the #1 spot on the charts for weeks. More hits followed from others, Ray Price (“I'd Rather Be Sorry”), Joe Simon (“Help Me Make It Through the Night”), Bobby Bare (“Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends”), Jerry Lee Lewis (“Me and Bobby McGee"”), Patti Page (“I'd Rather Be Sorry”) and Peggy Little (“I've Got to Have You”).

Kristofferson released his second album, “The Silver Tongued Devil and I” in 1971. It was a success and established Kristofferson's career as a recording artist in his own right. That year Kristofferson made his acting debut in the Dennis Hopper directed “The Last Movie,” and appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival. In 1971, he acted in “Cisco Pike” and released his third album, “Border Lord.” The album was all-new material and sales were sluggish. He also swept the Grammy Awards that year with numerous songs nominated, winning Country Song of the Year for “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” Kristofferson's 1972 fourth album, “Jesus Was a Capricorn,” initially had slow sales, but the third single, “Why Me,” was a success and significantly increased album sales.

Kristofferson and singer Rita Coolidge married in 1973 and released an album titled “Full Moon.” It was another success buoyed by numerous hit singles and Grammy nominations. However, his fifth album, “Spooky Lady's Sideshow,” released in 1974, was a commercial failure, setting the trend for most of the rest of his career.

Artists such as Ronnie Milsap and Johnny Duncan continued to record Kristofferson's material with much success, but his distinctively rough voice and anti-pop sound kept his own audience to a minimum. Meanwhile, more artists took his songs to the top of the charts, including Willie Nelson, whose 1979 LP release of “Willie Nelson Sings Kris Kristofferson” proved to be a smash success. Kristofferson and Coolidge divorced in 1980.

In 1982, Kristofferson participated (with Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Brenda Lee) on “The Winning Hand,” a double album consisting of remastered and updated performances of recordings the four artists had made for the Monument label during the mid-1960s. The album reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Country Albums chart.

As actor he appeared in “The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck,” “Flashpoint” and “Songwriter.” The latter also starred Willie Nelson. Kristofferson was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, and an album of duets between Nelson and Kristofferson, “Music from Songwriter,” was a massive country success.

Nelson and Kristofferson continued their partnership, and added Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash to form the supergroup The Highwaymen. Their first album, 1985’s “Highwayman,” was a huge success, and the supergroup continued working together for a time. The title-track single from the album was awarded the ACM's single of the year in 1985. In 1985, Kristofferson starred in “Trouble in Mind” and released “Repossessed,” a politically aware album that was a country success, particularly “They Killed Him,” a tribute to his heroes, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, and Mahatma Gandhi.

In spite of the success of “Highwayman 2” in 1990, Kristofferson's solo recording career slipped significantly in the early 1990s, though he continued to record successfully with the Highwaymen. “Lone Star” a 1996 film by John Sayles, reinvigorated Kristofferson's acting career, and he soon appeared in “Blade,” “Blade II,” “Blade: Trinity,” “A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries,” “Fire Down Below,” Tim Burton's remake of “Planet of the Apes,” “Chelsea Walls,” “Payback,” “The Jacket” and “Fast Food Nation.”

The Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted Kristofferson in 1985, as had the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1977. 1999 saw the release of “The Austin Sessions,” an album on which Kristofferson reworked some of his favorite songs with the help of befriended artists such as Mark Knopfler, Steve Earle and Jackson Browne. In 2003, “Broken Freedom Song” was released, a live album recorded in San Francisco.

In 2004, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2006, he received the Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame and released his first album full of new material in 11 years, “This Old Road.”

Kristofferson released a new album of original songs entitled “Closer to the Bone” in 2009. It was produced by Don Was on the New West label. In December 2009, it was announced that Kristofferson would be portraying Joe on the album “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” a collaboration between rock singer John Mellencamp and novelist Stephen King.

In 2010, Light in the Attic Records released demos that were recorded during Kristofferson's janitorial stint at Columbia. “Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends: The Publishing Demos” is the first time these recordings have been released and includes material that would later be featured on other Kristofferson recordings and on the recordings of other prominent artists, such as the original recording of ‘Me and Bobby McGee.”