Kris Kristofferson

By: Jerrold Freitag
June 22, 2014


Golden Gloves boxer, helicopter pilot, Rhodes Scholar, Army Airborne Ranger, musician and actor KRIS KRISTOFFERSON (born 1936) put it all together in his successful, brilliant career as a songwriter. There are two kinds of people in the world, and Kristofferson is the kind of people most of us aren’t: You’ve either escaped a metaphorical cage (1969’s “Me and Bobby McGee”), been on a bender since Friday (1969’s “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down”), known love and risk again (1970’s “For the Good Times”), or you haven’t. His 1971 song “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33” is Cohen-esque: “He’s a poet, he’s a picker / He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher / He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned / He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction, / Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.” Kristofferson’s 1966 song “Viet Nam Blues” makes it clear that nothing is cut-and-dried… but by starring in Cimino’s under-appreciated Heaven’s Gate (1980), and by speaking out against capitalist treachery in and since Nicaragua, he has also taken strong ethical positions. He’s in the appropriate halls of fame, and his receipt of the First Amendment Center’s Free Speech Award (after Johnny Cash and before Steve Earle) is a crown. He forgets a lot nowadays, but says he still remembers his songs.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Green Gartside, Todd Rundgren, Octavia E. Butler, Schoolly D, Félix Fénéon, David Rees, Billy Wilder.

READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).


HiLo Heroes, Music