Kris Kristofferson Celebrates 85th Birthday — Do You Know His Lafayette Connection?
Kris Kristofferson, one of the most prolific singer-songwriters in the history of country music, is celebrating his 85th birthday today.
Born in Brownsville, Texas on June 22, 1936, Kristofferson is known for penning such classics as "Me and Bobby McGee," "For the Good Times," "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", and "Help Me Make It Through the Night."
In 2004, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Kristofferson has also enjoyed tremendous success as an actor appearing in several movies, on television and on stage. In 1976, he even won a Golden Globe Award for his work in A Star Is Born.
Kris Kristofferson's background is incredibly interesting. He moved around frequently as a youth because of his father's military service. He spent his formative years in San Mateo, California.
He went to college at Pomona College and garnered national attention as a rugby player, among other sports. Kristofferson would later earn a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where he studied at Merton College. And about this time is when he began writing songs.
It's the next phase of his life that would eventually lead to his connection with Lafayette. After college, Kris joined the U.S. Army and became a helicopter pilot. When his assignment ended in 1965, he decided to leave the Army and pursue songwriting. So, he moved to Nashville.
Kristofferson would work a variety of odd jobs while struggling to find success in the music business. However, one of those jobs was sweeping floors at Columbia Recording Studios in Nashville. There, he met June Carter and asked her to give Johnny Cash a tape of his. She did, but Cash put it on a large pile with others.
Around that same time, Kris began working as a commercial pilot for Lafayette-based Petroleum Helicopters International (PHI).
Kristofferson recalled his days as a pilot in Cajun country:
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 Carter his tapes, Kristofferson landed a helicopter on Cash's front yard, trying to gain his full attention.
"It was still kind of an invasion of privacy that I wouldn't recommend. To be honest, I don't think he was there...John had a pretty creative memory," Kristofferson would later recall.
But, after hearing "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," Cash decided to record it, and that year (1971), Kristofferson won Songwriter of the Year at the Country Music Awards.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Kristofferson has eight children from his three marriages. He and his wife Lisa own a home in Los Flores Canyon in Malibu, California, and maintain a residence in Hana on the island of Maui.
He also announced earlier this year that he was retired from performing. Kristofferson has said that he would like the first three lines of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire" on his tombstone.
Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free
My Favorite Country Songs About Louisiana