Kris Kristofferson Uniex t-shirt
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Kris Kristofferson was born in Brownsville, Texas, to Mary Ann (née Ashbrook) and Lars Henry Kristofferson, a U.S. Army Air Corps officer (later a U.S. Air Force major general). His paternal grandparents emigrated from Sweden, while his mother had English, Scots-Irish, German, Swiss-German, and Dutch ancestry. Kristofferson's paternal grandfather was an officer in the Swedish Army. When Kristofferson was a child, his father pushed him towards a military career.\
Kristofferson, under pressure from his family, ultimately joined the U.S. Army and attained the rank of captain. He became a helicopter pilot after receiving flight training at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He also completed Ranger School. During the early 1960s, he was stationed in West Germany as a member of the 8th Infantry Division. During this time, he resumed his music career and formed a band. In 1965, when his tour of duty ended, Kristofferson was given an assignment to teach English literature at West Point. Instead, he decided to leave the army and pursue songwriting. His family disowned him because of his career decision, and sources are unclear on whether or not they reconciled. They saw it as a rejection of everything they stood for, in spite of the fact that Kristofferson has said he is proud of his time in the military, and received the American Veterans Awards "Veteran of the Year Award" in 2003.
After leaving the army in 1965, Kristofferson moved to Nashville. He worked at a variety of odd jobs while struggling for success in music, burdened with medical expenses resulting from his son's defective esophagus. He and his wife soon divorced.
He got a job sweeping floors at Columbia Recording Studios in Nashville. He met June Carter there and asked her to give Johnny Cash a tape of his. She did, but Johnny put it in a large pile with others. He also worked as a commercial helicopter pilot for a south Louisiana firm called Petroleum Helicopters International (PHI), based in Lafayette, Louisiana. Kristofferson recalled of his days as a pilot, "That was about the last three years before I started performing, before people started cutting my songs. I would work a week down here [in south Louisiana] for PHI, sitting on an oil platform and flying helicopters. Then I'd go back to Nashville at the end of the week and spend a week up there trying to pitch the songs, then come back down and write songs for another week. I can remember "Help Me Make It Through the Night" I wrote sitting on top of an oil platform. I wrote "Bobby McGee" down here, and a lot of them [in south Louisiana]."
Weeks after giving June his tapes, Kristofferson landed a helicopter in Cash's front yard, gaining his full attention. [Note: In a later interview, Kristofferson maintained Cash was not at home when he landed the helicopter. The story about Kristofferson having a beer in one hand and some songs in the other is a fable.] Cash decided to record "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" and that year Kristofferson won Songwriter of the Year at the Country Music Awards.
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", and "Darby's Castle"). He achieved some success as a performer himself, following Johnny Cash's introduction of him at the Newport Folk Festival.
Kristofferson signed to Monument Records as a recording artist. In addition to running that label, Fred Foster also served as manager of Combine Music, Kristofferson's songwriting label. 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"), Gladys Knight & The Pips ("Help Me Make It Through The Night"), 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 number one hit with "Me and Bobby McGee" from her posthumous album Pearl. When released, it stayed on the number-one 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"); O.C. Smith ("Help Me Make It Through the Night"); Jerry Lee Lewis ("Me and Bobby McGee"); Patti Page ("I'd Rather Be Sorry"); and Peggy Little ("I've Got to Have You"). The country music performer Kenny Rogers has also recorded some of Kristofferson's compositions, including a version of "Me and Bobby McGee" in 1969 with The First Edition for the Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town album.
Kristofferson released his second album, The Silver Tongued Devil and I in 1971; including "Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)". It was a success and established Kristofferson's career as a recording artist in his own right. Soon after, Kristofferson made his acting debut in The Last Movie (directed by Dennis Hopper) and appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival. A portion of his Isle of Wight performance is featured on the three disc compilation The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies. 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. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA on November 8, 1973. In 1972, Kristofferson appeared with Rita Coolidge on British TV on BBC's "The Old Grey Whistle Test", performing a physically intimate version of "Help Me Make It Through The Night".
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