| 17°C Dublin

Kristofferson's tales from a life well-lived

His distinctive husky tone may be even more ragged around the edges now that he's reached his 76th year but if ever a voice reflected a life well-lived then it's that of Kris Kristofferson.

Even a casual glance at his biography reveals a quite remarkable breadth of artistic endeavours. This is a man whose early life included winning a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, where his ambitions to become a novelist became sidetracked by an attempt to break into music courtesy of the legendary pop svengali Larry Parnes -- the Louis Walsh of his day -- who tried to launch him as Kris Carson. Following that diversion, he spent five years in the army as a helicopter pilot before making his mark as a songwriter.

The patronage of Johnny Cash, who memorably covered the bruised and brooding Sunday Morning Coming Down, gave him vital TV exposure in the States but his star really rose with hit versions of Me and Bobby McGee and Help Me Make it Through the Night by Janis Joplin and Gladys Knight respectively.

A sublimely talented lyricist, those literary ambitions certainly didn't go to waste, Kristofferson then branched out into acting, with a pivotal role opposite Bob Dylan in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid before his massive mainstream success alongside Barbra Streisand in the third version of A Star is Born.

In that film Kristofferson was able to draw on personal experience as he played a dissolute rock star whose lifestyle sends him off the rails although in real life he got himself back on track and excelled in Michael Cimino's ill-fated Heaven's Gate.


One of the finest episodes in Kristofferson's career came when he collaborated with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson as The Highwaymen. This was a supergroup of legendary singer-song writers, the easy and fluent way these performers sparked off each other being a joy to behold. A highpoint in the long and varied journey of Kris Kristofferson, but there have been so, so many others.

>George Byrne

Kris Kristofferson plays the Olympia on Monday and Tuesday