Saturday, June 22, 2013

Blame it on Kristofferson (REVISED)

     I grew up on some of the best lyricists to use the English language in the last half of the Twentieth Century. Lennon and McCartney. Dylan. Carole King. Neil Diamond. John Hartford. Jimmy Webb. Like many of the lost young people of my time I fancied myself a poet. A songwriter.                                            

I started in the late Sixties. Words full of angst and despair. Thankfully I matured and evolved quickly. I was trying to write short stories in three verses and a chorus. I was friends with musicians and was hanging out on the fringes of the business.A couple tried to put music to my words. They said I was writing tone poems with a nice internal rhythm. However we couldn't shoehorn them into late Sixties, early Seventies Rock 'n  Roll. I had no idea where my words fit in. What kind of voice did I have?  Was I simply playing the sensitive young man and trying to get laid? Well, it was the Sixties though I felt there was more to me. A bit more anyway.    
Then I heard the songs. "Sunday Morning Coming Down". "Me and Bobby McGee."                                  

When I heard Cash sing about those Sunday Mornin' sidewalks I was floored. Then I paused and thought,"WHAT!?!? I'm writing fucking Country?" I looked back at "Nashville Skyline". I loved it but whatever Muse I was being used by was left cold.Even by "Lat Lady Lay." I listened to the Columbus,Ohio  Country station. I was appalled. Pro Vietnam war, anti youth , twangy redneck bullshit.                            

I found out who wrote those two songs and started to listen for that poetic voice. Remember, there was no internet. No Google. I relied on Billboard magazine for news of this guy. There was an occasional blurb as this was the dawn of songwriter as auteur, i.e. James Taylor.                                                                    

Then on 1230 WCOL AM I heard the song snag by the man who wrote it.  It told me what I was writing. How to write and it broke my heart. I knew I would never write anything that beautiful and powerful.The lyrics flowed with imagery, loss and hope."Loving Her Was easier(Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again). Kris Kristofferson. Christ, the first two lines are stunning.  "I have seen the morning, burning golden on the mountain in the sky. Aching with the feeling of the freedom of an eagle when she flies." I was done. Hooked.

I bought the "Silver Tongued Devil" album.  I was awed and amazed. I found his first album "Kristofferson" Hell the songs on that. "Sunday Mornin' Coming Down". "For The Good Times". "Help Me Make It Through The Night."Me And Bobby McGee". OMG.    
I discovered he was a Rhodes scholar.Majored in English Literature at Oxford. Wrote a paper on William Blake. The Nashville old guard weren't happy about this hippie invading their old boys club. Kris brought the nuances of the power of the English language well and truly used into popular music. He changed the face of Country music.                                                                                                                                        

Kris found his way into movies and proved to be an excellent actor and a bit of a heart throb See "The Sailor That Fell From Grace With The Sea' sometime. Dark. Powerful. Boldly erotic.  And lets forget about "Heavens Gate" I blame that disaster on the Director.      

To me Kris reinforced the knowledge of just how beautiful English is in the hands of a writer with mastery. I learned lessons in lyric writing. I learned how to use language to paint with  my prose. A lesson I have mostly forgotten. I learned how to hurt at an ending but remain hopeful. HE shaped how I see and feel the world around me. I learned that joy, passion,angst and sorrow were all connected on one level or another, You may be hurting but you need to hope. To care. To love again.                                                                    

Kris is still writing and performing powerful music in his seventies. On his own terms. Following his vision, not some executive's.  
If you want to know why I write as I do. Blame it on Kristofferson. Why am I an unabashed romantic? Blame it on Kristofferson.

Why do I hope to find a love someday? Blame it on Kristofferson. Why do I still dream even when I'm in despair? Blame it on Kristofferson. Why do I try singing? Blame it on Kristofferson.                                                                                                                                      
So Kris, thank you for writing such a major portion of the soundtrack of my life. Thanks for schooling me. Thanks for telling me about that lonely guy wandering those bleak Sunday sidewalks. Thanks for the good times.

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