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Legend Spotlight: Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson's life would carry out one hell of a country album. Each of his songs represent a little ounce of the singer + songwriter's biography, from start to finish. All of his life he invigorated his devotions and made his aspirations come alive. Over the course of a five decade career, he has earned 48 BMI Country and Pop Awards, was honored with SHOF's highest accolade; the Johnny Mercer Award, won 3 GRAMMY Awards, named BMI Icon at the 57th annual BMI Country Awards, won a Golden Globe, earned a spot in The Country Music Hall of Fame.  That's not even half of the story.  His life of accolades was inaugurated long before his run in Music City.

The singer was born in Brownsville, Texas to Mary Ann and U.S Army Air corps officer Lars Kristofferson. He depleted gobs of his childhood agedness like an average military brat moving around from town to town, but resided the rest of his childhood time in California where he graduated from San Mateo High School in 1954.

Kristofferson attended Pomona State College in California to study creative writing for his undergraduate studies. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa his junior year and graduated summa cum laude. He then obtained a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University where he attended Merton College. He was Golden Gloves Boxer, a constitution of annual competitions for amateur boxing in the United States, where a small pair of golden boxing gloves are awarded, where he received blue; an award of sporting colors earned by athletes at some universities for competition at the highest level. He and his classmates resurrected the Claremont Colleges Rugby Club in 1958 and he tasted his first uncia of fame in 1956 after being documented in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd. He also received creative writing notoriety as a recipient of four of the twenty prizes in The Atlantic Monthly short-story writing contest for all University students for short stories, "The Rock," a story about a geographical feature that paralleled the body of a girl, and "Gone are the Days," a story about a racial circumstance.

After graduating Oxford with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree in English Literature, the singer + songwriter served in the army, from the persuasion of his family, as an Airborne Ranger Helicopter Pilot and where he worked his way up the rank to Captain. While stationed in West Germany as a member of the 8th Infantry Division, he formed a band and continued to write songs during his down time. He turned down a teaching position at West Point to move to Nashville to pursue songwriting. He stated, "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."

It wasn't until 1966 when Kristofferson first saw success in Music City. Dave Dudley released his tune "Vietnam Blues" which peaked in the Top 20, and following this debut, Kristofferson signed with Epic Records. Before this moment, Kristofferson swept floors at Columbia Records after moving to Nashville after leaving the army where he met June Carter and asked her to pass along one of his tapes to Johnny. As usual, his tapes ended up in a pile of other unknown singer + songwriters trying to grab Cash's attention. In addition to his in-house maintenance side hustle at Columbia Records, he worked as a commercial helicopter pilot using his Army training for a South Louisiana firm Petroleum Helicopters International. At the end of these weeks, he would travel back to Nashville, pitch the songs he wrote at the firm, and do it all over again week after week.

His following hits throughout the 70's, 80's, and 90's, "Me and Bobby McGee," written in Nashville, "For the Good Times," "Help Me Make It Through The Night," written down at the oil firm sitting on top of an oil platform, "Sunday Morning Comin' Down," "I Won't Mention It Again," and "Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends" all songs that topped the charts, molded country music and it was predicted that about 450 recording artists cut his tracks. These artists included Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Gladys Knight & The Pips and more. The three-time GRAMMY Award winner has recorded over 29 albums; three of which are with his good buddies Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson as part of The Highwaymen. 

In the midst of the 70's, the acclaimed performing artist attained attention in Hollywood where he acted in over 70 films. He won a Golden Globe for "A Star is Born" in 1977 and appeared in other films such as Blade, Payback, Dance With Me, A Soldier's Daughter Never Dies and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. More recently he has stared in He's Just Not That InTo You and Dolphin Tale. 

More recently, the performing artist was honored with the Johnny Cash Visionary Award from Country Music Television and received the Frances Preston Music Industry Award from the T.J Martell Foundation in March of 2012. In 2014, he was honored with a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and the PEN Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award. 2018, he teamed up with Brandi Carlile to cover Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" at Mitchell's 75th birthday celebration. Over 83 years, Kris Kristofferson has accomplished more in his life than average person can dream of doing and continues to inspire so many in the world of country music.

Written by Brianna Vacca


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