Friday 24 November 2017

Nothing compares to Kris -- the Nashville legend still smitten with Sinead

Country icon Kris Kristofferson tells Richie Taylor about the inspiration behind the song he wrote for Sinead O'Connor

Singing from the same hymn sheet: Kris Kristofferson
Singing from the same hymn sheet: Kris Kristofferson

Richie Taylor

If there's one man to whom Sinead O'Connor owes a massive debt of kindness, it's Kris Kristofferson. Now Sinead, who married Irish-Australian musician Steve Cooney a few weeks ago, will finally get a chance to catch up with the Texas country music legend during his nationwide tour, which reaches Dublin's Olympia Theatre tomorrow for a three-night run (proceeds from the show on August 13 go towards the ISPCC).

Sinead is likely to appear on stage with him as a special guest on at least one of the shows.

A music insider revealed: "They're looking at performing 'Help Me Make It Through The Night' and a couple more at the Olympia. There are certainly plenty of his hits to choose from."

Big-hearted Kris took the tearful Sinead under his wing and generally acted as a father figure to her when she was booed off the stage by an angry crowd at a Bob Dylan anniversary tribute show in New York's Madison Square Garden in 1992.

Kris put a consoling arm around her and led her away to the wings.

Soon after, Sinead controversially tore up a picture of the Pope on live TV in the US and refused to go on stage at another American venue with the Stars and Stripes flag over the stage.

Many Americans, including Frank Sinatra, were incensed by the singer's behaviour.

Now Kris has written a song about the incident called Sister Sinead, which is on his current album Closer To The Bone.

The lyrics go: "I'm singing this song for my sister Sinead/Concerning the God-awful mess that she made/When she told them her truth just as hard as she could/Her message profoundly was misunderstood."

The pair stayed in touch only intermittently down through the years by phone, and Kris asked a friend in Dublin to arrange the fully-fledged reunion with Sinead, who is now on husband number three, for when he gets here.

A music insider revealed: "Sinead has a great affection for Kris and still remembers how good he was to her that night. She's also delighted with the song he wrote about her."

Now 74, Kristofferson says he is looking forward to performing in Ireland, where he has always been given a warm welcome.

He revealed: "Johnny Cash also loved playing Ireland. It's a great country for singer/songwriters, and they've always loved poets and drunks as well! It probably is my favourite place on the planet.

"I once said that in the Royal Albert Hall in London; it didn't go down too well!"

And reformed hellraiser Kris misses his old pals Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings who have passed on to that great country bar band in the sky.

He added: "Nearly all the heroes and friends are gone; it will happen to all of us. But Willie Nelson is still on the go. I think he's one of the funniest people in the world.

"You interviewed him in his tour bus? Well I hope you didn't inhale!" he laughs, referring to country singer Willie's well-known love of marijuana.

Kris and his family have lived in Hawaii for 20 years and he loves the quiet life over there.

"I get all my thrills on the road. I like to just chill out when I get back home. It's heaven. I live in Maui, in a secluded place called Hana. I've got no neighbours and we live right by the beach."

And Kris has no plans to retire to his hammock in Hawaii for good just yet.

"I'll keep playing Ireland while people still want to come to see me," he says.

"The Irish are the best for me, as they were for Johnny Cash. He always told me that he felt exactly the same way. I'm in pretty good health for an old guy. These days I only drink the odd glass of wine with dinner.

"I feel pretty blessed. I've eight kids and seven grandkids. My wife looks after me on the road and two of my children come on tour with us as well. I just feel like a lucky old songwriter."

Kris has packed a lot into his 74 years. Born in Brownsville, Texas, he subsequently studied English literature at Oxford.

Coming from a military background, he joined up and qualified as a helicopter pilot.

He had achieved the rank of captain when he was honourably discharged and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue his musical dreams.

There he worked at all sorts of jobs, including one as a janitor in a Nashville studio where heroes such as Johnny Cash recorded.

Unable to get his demo tapes into their hands, one morning he borrowed a helicopter (as you do) and flew out to Johnny's house, where he landed on the front lawn.

When Johnny came out to see what was going on, Kris handed him a tape and asked him to listen to it. A perplexed Johnny loved the songs and recorded several, including 'Sunday Morning Coming Down', and 'Help Me Make It Through The Night'.

Kris soon became the hottest property in Nashville -- while maintaining a sideline career as an actor in films such as Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid and Heaven's Gate.

Kris Kristofferson plays the Olympia tomorrow, Thursday and Friday night. For more tour dates, see www.ticketmaster.ie

Irish Independent

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