Born June 22, 1936, Kris Kristofferson started by selling his songs to singers Roger Miller and Johnny Cash. His own second album (1971) was a hit, with songs like "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Me and Bobby McGee." He then turned to film acting with starring roles in more than 50 films, inlcuding Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) and A Star Is Born (1976), opposite Barbra Streisand. He continued his career in film into the 21st century, with roles in the Blade films and Beer for My Horses (2008).
Singer, songwriter and actor Kristoffer Kristofferson was born on June 22, 1936, in Brownsville, Texas. Son of a military officer, Kristofferson was equal parts intellectual and athlete growing up. He was an award-winning short story writer as well as a Golden Gloves boxer. He graduated from Pomona College in 1958 with a degree in creative writing and went on to attend Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. While in England, he performed under the name Kris Carson, playing country and folk music.
After leaving Oxford, Kristofferson joined the United States Army in 1960. He served as a helicopter pilot in Germany. He turned down a teaching position at West Point to pursue his dream of becoming a successful songwriter.
Hits As a Songwriter and Singer
Moving to Nashville in 1965, he struggled and took odd jobs to cover the bills, including one working as a janitor at Columbia Records. His first big break came from Roger Miller who recorded Kristofferson's song "Me and Bobby McGee." (This same song was later a rock hit for Janis Joplin in 1971.)
The next country star to fall for Kristofferson's music was Johnny Cash. Cash took Kristofferson's song "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and helped make it a big hit. The song was popular with country fans and critics alike, winning the Country Music Association's song of the year award in 1970. Along with writing successful songs for others, he released his first album, Kristofferson, that same year.
While his first album wasn't a huge commercial success, Kristofferson scored with his next effort "Silver Tongued Devil and I" (1971) with his own version of the song "Loving Her Was Easier." He received two Grammy nominations for best song for "Help Me Make It through the Night" and "Me and Bobby McGee" and a nomination for best country song for "For the Good Times" in 1971. In the rest of 1970s continued to a productive, prosperous time for Kristofferson. In 1973 he married singer Rita Coolidge. The two received a Grammy award that same year for best country vocal performance by a duo for "From the Bottom to the Bottle." They won the same award two years later for "Love Please."
Kristofferson also found success as an actor, especially in roles that played off his outlaw image. After a small part in The Last Movie (1971), he had his first major film role in Cisco Pike (1972) and went on do more than 50 films. Two of his most notable roles were in 1974's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and 1976's A Star Is Born, in which he starred opposite Barbra Streisand.
Playing the part of a self-destructive musician, Kristofferson earned critical acclaim as well as a Golden Globe Award for his performance. Over the years, he has worked with many of Hollywood's top directors, including Sam Peckinpah, John Sayles and Martin Scorsese.
For all of his accomplishments, Kristofferson had his share of personal and professional struggles. He has battled a problem with alcohol and his marriage with Coolidge ended in divorce in 1979. He starred in Heaven's Gate (1980), considered one of the biggest flops in movie history. After taking a break for a while, a renewed Kristofferson joined forces with fellow country music greats Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson as a member of the Highwaymen. This group of country superstars released four albums: Highwayman (1985), Highwayman 2 (1990), Live! (1992) and The Road Goes On Forever (1995). As a solo performer, he released several albums, including Repossessed (1986) and Third World Warrior (1988), which both showcased the songwriter's views on political and social issues, such as the U.S. military involvement in Central America.
In the 1990s, he took an eclectic mix of film roles, from the tough sheriff Charlie Wade in Lone Star (1996) to Abraham Whistler in Blade (1998). Far removed from his leading man days of the 1970s, Kristofferson has evolved into a strong character actor. He continues to act in a variety of films, ranging from the family-friendly horse drama Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story to the dark thriller The Jacket. He has even lent his distinctive gravelly voice to the video game Gun.
With his film work often overshadowing his musical talents, this living legend finally received his due in 2004 when he was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2006, Kristofferson released This Old Road, his first studio album in eleven years. Billboard magazine selected it as a critic's choice. He also released the album Live at Austin, Texas that same year.
While he has yet release a new studio album since then, Kristofferson has very active in film. He has appeared in Fast Food Nation (2006), Disappearances (2007), The Wendell Baker Story (2007) and Beer for My Horses (2008). Kristofferson also served as the narrator for Todd Haynes' offbeat film on Bob Dylan, I'm Not There (2007). In 2009, the multitalented performer was in the romantic comedy He's Just Not That Into You starring Jennifer Aniston.
Kristofferson lives in Hawaii with his third wife Lisa and three youngest children. He has three children from his earlier marriages: Tracy and Kris with first wife Fran Beir, and Casey from his marriage to Rita Coolidge.