KRIS KRISTOFFERSON: born June 22, 1936
Kris Kristofferson was an unlikely country superstar. Mostly because his albums didn’t fit with the country music of the day. Sure, the songs were structured like country songs and they followed the basic country chord structures. But at a time when country singers had a polished, “countrypolitan” sound with large arrangements and smooth vocals, Kristofferson’s arrangements were stripped down. And his voice was less “polish” and more “frog croak”. (At the time, The Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau gave the album a “Disappointing” rating due to “such a lack of raw charisma”.) More concerning for country audiences in 1970 was the sexuality of the album. Country had spent the late 1960s in reactionary mode: fighting against the rising tides of rebellion and sexual freedom and non-conformity. The sweeping changes in America had all but avoided the country music scene, which was firmly entrenched in “The Fighting Side of Me” and “Okie From Muskogee” and the pro-Vietnam veteran songs of Dave Dudley. Kristofferson’s debut album was an affront to that stolid world. He sang of sang up hitchhiking hippies (“Me and Bobby McGee”). He sang of alcoholism and hangovers (“Sunday Morning Coming Down”). Worse than that, he sang about sex. The word “body” appears over and over on that debut album, and the world of country music clutched its collective pearls at the regular proclamation that sex might fuel connection or provide redemption. Country music had sung of bad marriages and cheating hearts for decades, but the celebration of “body” was unheard of. Country music fans and the country music establishment couldn’t understand where this album was coming from. Nashville was littered with young conservative guitar-pickers who’d left home after high school and moved to Music City to make it as a singer/songwriter. It was almost impossible to find a liberal song in Nashville. So where was this coming from?
- January 12: CHARLES NELSON REILLY - Learning the Rules, Only to Break Them
- January 17: MUHAMMAD ALI - Owning Your Greatness
- March 5: PIER PAOLO PASOLINI - The Danger of Being Too Broad