5 Songs You Didn’t Know Kris Kristofferson Wrote For Other Artists First

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Kris Kristofferson’s lyrics have permeated the American songbook for more than 50 years, from the pensive croon of Janis Joplin Freedom is just another word for nothing to lose on “Me and Bobby McGhee” to Waylon Jennings’ deplorable tale of one-sided love on “The Taker,” but the road to songwriting was somewhat unconventional for the artist at first.

Born June 22, 1936 in Brownsville, Texas in the late 1950s, Kristofferson began writing and performing his own songs as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford in England, where he graduated in English literature. Years before releasing its debut in 1970 Kristofferson, he recorded his first album under the name of Kris Carson before enlisting in the American army where he would later teach English literature at West Point in the State of New York. A military child, his paternal grandfather was an officer in the Swedish army and he traveled often as a child due to his father’s military service. In 1965, Kristofferson decided to leave military life and move to Nashville to pursue songwriting, much to the dismay of his family, who disowned him.

In 1966, Kristofferson had his first hit with his song “Viet Nam Blue”, which was recorded by Dave Dudley and peaked in the Top 20 on the country chart. Over the next few years, Kristofferson found more chart success with songs like “Jody and the Kid”, recorded by Roy Drusky, Billy Walker’s “From the Bottle to the Bottom” and the Tennessee Walkers in 1969, Ray Stevens hitting the country. and the pop charts with Kristofferson’s “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”—later to become a No. 1 hit for Johnny Cash in 1970—and Faron Young’s “Your Time’s Comin'” peaking in the top five of the country chart.

Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Kristofferson continued to write more hits, including “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends”, “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and “I Won’t Mention It Again”, “while venturing into acting, starring in more than 50 films, including the 1975 musical classic A star is born with Barbra Streisand.

Releasing more than two dozen albums over more than five decades, including collaborative albums with Willie Nelson, Rita Coolidge and others, Kristofferson also toured and wrote and recorded three albums (from 1985 to 1995) with the country supergroup The Highwaymen, which included Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash.

Awarded for his contribution to songwriting, Kristofferson was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1977, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004.

Dozens of artists were the first to record Kristofferson’s songs, while others have continued to cover his stories over the decades. In 2021, Willie Nelson shared a new rendition of Kristofferson’s 1973 song “Why Me,” which Nelson originally covered in 1979 on his album. Sing Kristofferson.

Here’s a look at a small sampling of notable songs from the late 60s and 70s written by Kris Kristofferson and first recorded by other artists.

1. “Me and Bobby McGee”, Roger Miller (1968)
Written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster

Before Kris Kristofferson recorded “Me and Bobby McGee” on his 1970 debut, Kristoffersonthe song was originally recorded by the late honky tonk singer Roger Miller (1936-1992) in 1968. “Me and Bobby McGee” follows a pair of lovers who travel together and eventually drift apart with “Bobby” originally written in the song by Kristofferson as a woman.

Miller’s version peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and received a bigger boost when it reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 three years later with the release of Janis’ posthumous version. Joplin. Joplin also replaced “Bobby” with a man, and the song was released as a single in 1971, on his second and final album, pearl.

Freedom is just another word for nothing to lose
Nothing is worth nothing but it’s free
Feeling good was easy Lord when Bobby was singing the blues
Feeling good was good enough for me
Good enough for me, Bobby McGee

From the Kentucky coal mines to the California sun
Bobby shared the secrets of my soul
Standing right beside me Lord through all I’ve done
Every night she protected me from the cold
Then somewhere near the lord of Salinas I let her slip away
I’m looking for the house I hope she finds
And I traded all my tomorrows for just one yesterday
Hold Bobby’s body next to mine

Over the decades, “Me and Bobby McGee” has also been covered by everyone from Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Olivia Newton-John, the Grateful Dead, Melissa Etheridge, Dottie West and the Statler Brothers, among others. .

2. “Once More With Feeling”, Jerry Lee Lewis (1970)
Written by Kris Kristofferson and Shel Silverstein

It would take Kristofferson nearly a decade to record ‘Once More with Feeling’ for his ninth album. shake hands with the devil in 1979, but he first shared the ballad with Jerry Lee Lewis, who recorded the song for his 13th album, She even woke me up to say goodbye.

Lewis’ recording reached No. 1 on the Cash Box Country Singles chart and No. 2 on the Billboard Country chart.

We’re just going through the motions
Parts we learned to play
Never quite together like before
‘Cause somehow honey something good
I got lost along the way
And our song is nothing
Special plus

3. “Gotta Have You”, Carly Simon (1971)
Written by Kris Kristofferson

Kristofferson’s “I’ve Got to Have You”, which he recorded himself in 1974, was first released by Carly Simon as the final acoustic ballad of her second album, Anticipation. Its title track reached number three on the Adult Contemporary chart in the United States, while “I’ve Got to Have You” was released as a single in Australia, where it reached the Top 10 on the charts in 1972.

Cling to talk, say nothing.
Knowing that in a moment I could lose you.
Then without warning I remembered that
You trembled at the touch of my hand.
Know when you came to me that no one else
I’ll never feel the same in my arms
It’s all over…I have to h
with you.

Wakin’ the morning to tenderness
To hold you asleep in my arms.
Dreaming while my hair was blowing
Sweeter than a whisper on my cheek.
I don’t know the feeling so I don’t know if it’s love
But it’s enough…it’s enough
I can’t help it… I have to have you.
It’s over… I have to have you.

4. “The Taker”, Waylon Jennings (1971)
Written by Kris Kristofferson and Shel Silverstein

Following the story of a man who takes a woman for granted and then leaves her, Waylon Jennings recorded “The Taker” as the title track of his 1971 album. The Taker/Tulsa. Kristofferson would later record the song on his second album, The silver-tongued devil and mein 1972, which was produced by his “Me and Bobby McGee” co-writer, longtime producer and Monument Records founder Fred Foster, who also worked closely with Roy Orbison – who would later record “Something They Can ‘t Take Away” by Kristofferson (see below)—and worked with Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton early in their careers.

He’s a charmer, he’ll charm her with money
And ways that I never learned
He’s a leader, he’ll lead her through
Pretty bridges he plans to make
burn.

He’s a talker, he’ll talk to her right away
But he won’t talk long
‘Cause he’s a doer, and he’ll do it right
That I never fucking would do if he didn’t hurt her

5. “Something They Can’t Take Away”, Roy Orbison (1976)
Written by Kris Kristofferson

First recorded and released by Roy Orbison in 1976 on his 20th album Regenerationthe album – including “Something They Can’t Take Away” – marked Orbison’s return to Monument Records after leaving in 1964 with Fred Foster producing the album.

Orbison paces the heartbreaking story of a long-lost love that never really left.

Way too soon we were blown over
Our paths parted again
And our beautiful summer dreams
Join the dead leaves
that tumbled in the wind with the echoes
And traces of voices and faces
And the places I left behind
But there are times in the morning
And there are times at the end of the day
When your memory comes as easily as a smile
And it’s something they can’t take away
I can die without ever
recognize happiness

Photo: Courtesy of New West Records

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