The first interview came on July 13, after his concert at the Red Robinson theatre in Coquitlam.
It’s easy to see why Kristofferson’s shows sometimes sell out within 1/2 hour, as happened recently, in Scotland. In his later years of touring, he has chosen not to be backed by a band, he stands alone on stage with his guitar and harmonica, and sings at you for two hours, give or take, without a break. It seems the right set-up for this man at this point in his life, it adds a sense of intimacy, and allows you to hear the subtleties in tone and expression that are otherwise missed.
He sings only the songs he has written, songs that tell the story of his life and times, the good times and the bad. They’re not country songs, and they’re not folk, they’re just songs of a man’s life. A degree in literature acquired long ago at Oxford University shows in his comfortable way around words:‘I don't need this town of yours no more than I never needed nothing else’ from Best Of All Possible Worlds, ‘all he ever gets is older and around’ from The Pilgrim Chapter 33, and one of my personal favourite lines, ‘life is a promise nobody keeps’, from a relatively unknown song, Stallion.
At 77, Kristofferson’s singing voice is still strong, with a rough edge that helps, not hurts, the message. As you listen, you realize that nobody else could do the songs as well - maybe it’s because he is singing his life to you, and there’s a depth of feeling that comes of that. You’re drawn in, you’re meeting bits and pieces of a man who has lived a good life, an interesting life. And you see a gracefully aging man singing songs about facing his mortality, doing so with the same kind of honesty and courage he has shown throughout his life.
He has had a storied past; he was a Rhodes scholar, US Army Ranger, Golden Gloves boxer, helicopter pilot (famously landing a helicopter onto Johnny Cash’s lawn to sell a song), and an actor, all the while writing and singing his songs and, luckily for fans of his music, eventually committing almost wholly to the music.
He doesn’t talk much during the show, but you can see a smile when he sings certain lines, and he throws in a few asides that are surely rehearsed yet don’t feel it. When he sings of ‘so many lonely girls’ in Best Of All Possible Worlds, he pauses to add, with a laugh, “I wrote that song a long time ago." True that, and all those lonely girls are women now, and older, probably married. Does he look out over the crowd and wonder at the way it has aged in perfect step to his own aging? Possibly. Does he miss, just a bit, having nubile young maidens sitting agog in front row? Probably. It had to be nice.
The audience unreservedly loves him. They are prepared to give him a standing ovation before he’s even begun, the excitement in the room is palpable. It is clear that he can do no wrong with this crowd, and maybe he can feel it or maybe he just knows these are kindred spirits, people on the same journey, because he soon relaxes into the affectionate good vibes sent his way, and sings his songs old and new. Near the end he is joined by his daughter, Kelly, on banjo, and together they sing a handful of songs. It’s a nice touch, the energy between them is as much of an appeal as the songs they sing together. Soon after, the show comes to an end, or rather, comes to the ‘fake’ end, as he calls it when returning to the stage for his encore songs. And as he sings the words in one of his closing songs, it’s easy to wonder if it might be true, that this might be ‘our last good night together’.
So now, here is one version of the aforementioned interview.
Me: Mr. Kristofferson, thank you for this interview.
Kris: Just call me Kris, that ‘Mr. Kristofferson’ stuff makes me feel old (laughs).
Me: Umm, well. but aren’t you old? At 77 you’re not exactly a spring chicken, more like a really old chicken, with one claw on a guitar, the other on a banana peel?
Kris: Okay, you know what? I take it back, you can just go ahead and call me Mr. Kristofferson.
Me: But hey, you’re still mighty good-looking, for all that, and still totally attackable, not that I would. I can’t run that fast anymore.
Kris: Oh god.
Me: God? He can’t help you, you’re stuck.
Kris: I actually agreed to an interview with you? Why?
Me: Well, ‘agreed’ seems a bit strong, but okay sure, yes, you ‘agreed’ to it.
Kris: Are we ever going to do the interview or are you just going to sit there drooling on me? Because my shirt is getting damp from it. Maybe you should sit over there.
Me: Whoa, didn’t Carly Simon write a song about you? “You probably think this drool is about you, don’t you, don’t you”.
Kris: No, that song wasn’t about me, I don’t own a Lear jet. And if you ever see me in an apricot cravat, just shoot me.
Me: Yes, well, the only reason your shirt is getting damp is because I have somehow become latched to your arm. I’d fight it, but luckily seem unable to do so. Okay, so, your last three albums have focused a good deal on growing old as dirt. I’ve already arrived at that station. I find it interesting, because I really am a spring chicken compared to you. Why did it take you so long to notice that you were old?
Kris: (groans) Oh god.
Me: You keep mentioning god, hey, are you about to sing, ‘Why Me, Lord’? Because I’d rather you sing ‘Stallion’, it contains the Best Line Ever Written: ‘Life is a promise nobody keeps’.
Kris: No, I am not going to sing a damn thing for you, only thing I’m going to do is to get past this interview as fast as possible. Hang on, I need to write a note (scribbles note - terrible handwriting - ‘for the love of god get a restraining order against this person ASAP').
Me: Huh, but we haven’t actually started the interview, I was just warming up to a question.
Me: That’s a good answer, because my question was, “Should we end this conversation right this moment?” Ha ha. I guess this is kind of like your song, ‘ A Moment of Forever’. Oh wait, maybe not.
Kris: (discouraged sigh) Okay, I give up. Ask your questions.
Me: Can I come stay at your house in Hawaii and write your biography? We can hang out and do stuff together. It will be fun. No, really. I’ll bring beer.
Kris: I would rather eat rusty nails.
So there you have the in-my-wildest-dreams version, into which some unfortunate ‘likely scenario’ stuff accidentally slipped in, despite my best intentions. Stay tuned (but don’t hold your breath) for the real deal. From Hawaii.
More Old as dirt. Twice as gritty. articles
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