WaPo has an interesting chat session with Kris Kristofferson. While I don’t agree much with his politics, he’s a brilliant individual and one of the more talented people around. The great irony is that he’s famous mainly as a singer, which is the thing he does least well.

And how’s this for a resume:

Best known as a songwriter whose hits include “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” he’s also an accomplished actor who has starred in dozens of films including “Lone Star,” “Blade,” “Semi-Tough” and “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.” What many fans may not know about Kristofferson is that he was also a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, spent five years in the army as a helicopter pilot and taught at West Point.

Not to mention an Airborne Ranger.

I’ve reproduced the transcript in its entirety below, as I don’t know how long this type of thing is archived. Some of it’s fairly amusing. Hello everyone and thanks for joining us today. We’re thrilled to have Kris Kristofferson online today from his home in Hawaii to take your questions. We’ll get started in just a minute.


Alexandria, VA: Is it true you are a Rhodes Scholar?

God bless you for your music and friendship to all those you’ve come across.

Kris Kristofferson: Yeah, I had a Rhodes Scholarship back in 58. I was over there at Oxford for a couple of years and I got a degree there and a boxing blue.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Did you really like Janis Joplin’s version of Me & Bobby McGee? Because just before you sing it, you go: “If it sounds country, man, that’s what it is, it’s a country song.”

Kris Kristofferson: Well that thing that I said about it being a country song was when I was recording my record. We were trying desperately to find the right groove. But that’s not my defintiion of what a country song is. I love Janis’s version. It’s one of the rare times when you get to hear someone transform your song. Janis really hooked it. A lot of people have done good versions of it.


Washington, D.C.: Kris, You’ve never been shy about expressing your politics. What do you think about our current administration and what do you think, as a vet, about this war in Iraq? thanks, a longtime fan

Kris Kristofferson: I thought it was a mistake going in and it was a terrible precedent to set to prefer unilateral military action to any kind of dialogue or any kind of international cooperation. All the guys who are making the decisions have never served in the military. They’ve showed contempt for any kind of international cooperation. Don’t get me started.


Pickerington, Ohio: Kris, way back when, I was lucky to see you sing a song about a Vietnam vet and the hippies protesting the war. What is the name of that song and is it recorded? Thanks for all the great music and movies

Kris Kristofferson: That was probably “Vietnam Blues.” It was a talking blues song and the first song I of mine that somebody recorded in Nashville. I was in the army when I wrote it. It was about a confrontation with protestors of the war. Kind of ironic since its about 180 degrees of where I am today. But I’m not ashamed of the song. I thought it was pretty good. I never did record it.


Pasadena, Md.: What about the new group that Willie is forming? Why aren’t you in it?

Kris Kristofferson: Well, I’m not sure which one you’re referring to. But I’m in one that he’s forming. As far as I know I’m still in the plans.


Detroit, MI.: What was the first movie in which you acted and with which movie with which you were affiliated did you get the most satisfaction?

Kris Kristofferson: I had one scene called The Last Movie. I played a wrangler. The first one I acted in was called “Cisco Pike” with Gene Hackman and Harry Dean Stanton. The most satisyfing, there’ve been a couple. A Star is Born, Lone Star, Trouble in Mind and A Soldiers Daughter Never Cries. And I liked Songwriter too, but they never marketed that.


Harrisonburg, VA: There have been so many stories on how you met Johnny Cash. Please tell us the one that is right. Did you land a helicopter in Johnny’s yard one day?


Kris Kristofferson: Well that isn’t the way I met him, but I did do that once. I met him backstage at the Opry when I was still in the army. I got to know him when I was working as a janitor in the studio where he worked. I briefly joined the National Guard to make some money and was flying a National Guard helicopter and landed in his yard to get his attention. He didn’t shoot me out of the sky, but he didn’t record my songs for a while.


Branchville NJ: Is “Bobby Magee” a boy or a girl?

Kris Kristofferson: Depends on whose singing it. When I’m singing it, she’s a girl. When Janis was singing it, it was a boy. It was about a secretary for Fred Foster who owned Monument Records named Bobby McGee.


College Park, Md.: You’re one of my all-time favorite songwriters. “Sunday Morning” is sheer genius. Who do you listen to these days?

Kris Kristofferson: Well I listen to the old guys I liked before. John Prine and Bob Dylan and Steve Earle.


Lossiemouth, Scotland,UK: Hi Kris

Looking forward to seeing you in Scotland in June.

I wondered how you and the family enjoyed your time in Glasgow recently, and what you found were the major differences between living here and in the US?(Apart from the language, that is!! LOL)


Kris Kristofferson: I loved being in Scotland. Loved playing there and the audiences were terrific. I’ve always felt at home and my family loved it too.


Anonymous: Mr.Kristofferson,thank you for taking my question.I’m emailing you from an oil production platform 200 miles off the coast of Newfoundland,Canada.We fly back and forth by helicopter.Would you please consider coming to Newfoundland to do a concert or two? The great John Prine played here last fall.His show sold out in two hours. Chris Ryan

Kris Kristofferson: That’s promising if they like John Prine out there. I used to work on one of those oil platforms. That’s a pretty lonely occupation out there. The only difference between those places and prison is they don’t lock the doors.


Alexandria, Va.: What do you think of the whole file-sharing scene? The recording industry is spending a lot of money to target Internet users who traded copyrighted songs. Some artists are distancing themselves from the industry’s tactics. Where do you stand?

Kris Kristofferson: I am so far out of the loop as any business things go and my kids are the only ones in the house that run computers. I have no idea what we’re talking about here. The only part of the music business I want to know about is the computer part. It’s out of my hands. It’s up to somebody else. Thank god.


Nashville, Tn.: I have looked up to you since I was 12. During the late 70-s, and early 80’s I used to follow you around. You have always been my greatest hero.

I am in my 40’s now and have a family of my own. I have always looked up to you and your opinions mean a lot to me. I know that you are an open minded person, and I try hard to be one also.

My question to you is, how should I handle my 15 year old son wanting to listen to all of this gangster rap music? I know that you broke a lot of barriers with censorship in your early career. I don’t ever want anything to become taboo inside of my home, but all of the cussing, rape, hatred, and violence of the music that he is listening to concerns me.

You have kids who are about the same age as my son. How do you handle this situation? Right now, I just listen to these lyrics, grimmace, and tell my son how revolting these lyrics are…..What do you recommend?

Kris Kristofferson: I think I’ve done about the same thing you have. I try not to impose my feelings on them because I know how I felt about my parents dissing country music or rock and roll. But the violence part is a concern because there are so many ways in our modern world that we’re desensitizing ourselves to violence. We’re teaching people to shoot without thinking.


Philadelphia, Pa.: In what way did your experiences as an undergraduate at Pomona College shape your career interests?

Kris Kristofferson: Well I had a real good creative writing teacher, Edward Wisemiller, who really fired my imagination. And I had another philosophy professor Frederick Sontag. They were both kind of mentors. The more exposure you have to good writing, the better writer you’ll be. And I also got to play football at Pomona. They wouldn’t have let me play at a big school.


Portland, Ore.: I understand that you might have had something to do with “discovering” Steve Goodman? Can you tell us the story and what your friendship with Steve ment to you?Maybe you’d remind the world what a great singer / songwriter he was.

Kris Kristofferson: Well I met Steve back at the Quiet Night in Chicago. I was sick and didn’t feel like seeing the opening act. But my band was raving about him. He was like a little candle on stage. He introduced me to John Prine and it was magic. Paul Anka was there with us and offered them both a plane ticket to NY to talk about publishing. I was working at the Bitter End and John and Steve charmed everybody everywhere they went. People give me credit for discovering them, but it’s like Columbus getting credit for discovering America. It was already there.


Houston, TX: Kris,
I once had a chance to go alone into a venue, spur of the moment to see you, or go in next door where another band was playing and all of my friends were expecting me. I know it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a legend whose music has made such a BIG impact on my life. In the years since, I have deeply regretted the door I chose and often wished I could do it over again since I assumed that was my last chance to see you play live. Now that you are going out on tour again, is there any chance you’ll come to Houston?

Kris Kristofferson: I wouldn’t be surprised. I used to play there a lot.


Southpaw, MN: Overtly political albums often fail to achieve commercial success. Do you think this is because record companies are hesitant to promote them, or because the public doesn’t have the appetite for them, or is there some other reason?

Kris Kristofferson: I don’t know. In my own case when I was on Polygram they really didn’t know how to market that kind of record coming out. They admitted it. You really can’t worry about that either.


Arlington, Va.: In college I wrote a paper trying to make the case that “Silver Tongued Devil and I” had been at least indirectly influenced by your study of Blake. I thought it echoed “Visions of the Daughters of Albion,” with Bromion/Theotormon’s daytime amnesia of what he’d done with Oothoon the night before, at the same time he was horrified at what had happened, and with a struggle to reconcile erotic and sacred longings. I never thought I’d get to check this out, but is there some Blake happening in that song?

Kris Kristofferson: There’s probably some Blake happening in every thing I write because I was so profoundly affected by that artist when I was over in Oxford. The example of a person so dedicated to being an artist, in spite of all the rejection he received. How that fits into the Silver Tongued Devil, I’m not exactly sure. The combination of light and dark in people would not have escaped Blake. My son when he was six that he didn’t like that song because he thought I was always blaming someone else. I’ve convinced him since then that I was criticizing myself.


Phoenix, Az.: was there any single new opinion or realization that you took from your time as a jarhead – West Point ?

Kris Kristofferson: Well, I wasn’t a jar head, that’s a marine. The only thing I took from my time in the Army, (and I was an infantry captain, a Ranger airborne helicopter pilot) was when I was deciding whether to take my next assignment which was being a professor at West Point or to get out and try to be a songwriter, which is what I wanted to do. I talked to General Larson, who was one of the best officers I ever worked with, and he looked at me and said “follow your heart.” And I did and it was the most important thing in my whole life. And it looked insane for a longer time than I’d like to remember.


Falls Church, Va.:
Do you ever feel that your clebrity has gotten in the way of being able to express yourself as an artist. By the way, I consider you to be the most literate and gifted songwriter in the English speaking world.

Kris Kristofferson: That’s kind of hard to live up to. I lived in Falls Church when I was in the third grade. The demands that celebrity makes on you turns to just time and attention. But it’s not something you complain about because it just comes with the territory. I don’t think I had any idea of how invasive celebrity can be on your life, but it’s worth it if you love what you’re doing. You’re a very lucky person if you’re doing what you love to do. It’s stupid to be up on a stage complaining about being a celebrity. It’s like a boxer complaining about the other guy hitting him.


Macon, Ga.: Kris, we saw you here – 15 yrs ago and you were wearing a Vietnam veteran’s t-shirt, with the helo emblam on the front. Where were you in the Nam and what type missions did you fly?? glad you made it.

Kris Kristofferson: I was never, never in Vietnam. I have supported Vietnam vets always. I volunteered to go to Vietnam when I was leaving Germany but it was before the big build up. I got turned down and that’s one of my mentors found out that my orders were to teach at the Academy and that was the priority at the time.


Arlington, Va: Mr. Kristofferson,

Thank you for joining us in this chat. I have always enjoyed your work. One my favorite movies was “Limbo”, and I really liked “Payback”. Are there any plans to team up with John Sayles again? What was it like to work with Mel Gibson?

Kris Kristofferson: Well I just did another one with John Sayles. It’s called Silver City. It’s coming out in November and it’s pretty political.

Working with Mel Gibson was great. It was really a pretty good movie and he was fun to work with. He’s done pretty well on his own movie there.


Wilmington, Del.: Hi Kris,
I’m coming to believe that writing a song, even a sad or angry song, is by nature a hopeful act. Does your music help you keep some sense of hope going in the face of all that’s been going on?

Kris Kristofferson: Absolutely. I always have felt like my music helped me sort out my experience. You can purge certain emotions and get all the satisfaction out of expressing what you’re feeling. And when that works for someone else, that’s a wonderful feeling. Unfortunately today that means all of my songs come off of what’s in the news. That’s where all of my urgent feelings are these days.


Washington DC: Any chance of a concert near us?

Kris Kristofferson: I’m playing at Wolf Trap with John Prine later this summer.


Decatur, Ill.: Hello Mr Kris Kristofferson….Thank you for doing this for us (your fans). I was wondering which contemporary singer songwriters you most enjoy listening to and which ones you may think have the most potential. Also, any knew acting roles coming up? Thanks

Kris Kristofferson: I really don’t listen to a lot. I love Norah Jones and I love the old guys that I always did. Bob Dylan, it’s so great that he’s writing the stuff that he’s doing right now. He’s really doing a job.


Washington DC: Your tributes to Johnny Cash were the most beautiful and heartfelt that I read after he passed away. I know he was your close friend. Thank you for expressing that to other people who loved him.

I’ve heard that you’re writing your memoirs. Which is great — you’ve got a few stories to tell. What are you finding most challenging and most rewarding about that writing process, and when can we expect the book?

And any concert dates in DC in the future? (Please! This city needs to hear from you, Kris.)

Kris Kristofferson: Don’t look for it tomorrow. What’s hard is having to go through a bunch of stuff that was better left behind. It brings up a lot of different emotions. I feel an obligation to get the stuff down for my kids if nothing else. I need to get my version down anyway. I hope, when I’m not so busy to do it. But right now I’m recording and getting ready to tour and it’s hard to get my mind into a writer’s set. I think all my life I thought I was going to be a writer of fiction and that whatever I was doing was going to be something that I would write about. I tried to experience as much as I could so that I’d have something to write about. But I got so sucked into the experiences and having a good time that I’d rather do that than write about it.


Alexandria, Va.: Hello – You probably get tons of questions like this, but here goes: I very much enjoy your album “Border Lord.” You released it a year before I was born so I know this is a while ago – but… can you tell me whether there was a real “Josie?” What about Josie now? That’s probably my favorite song by you. Thanks very much.

Kris Kristofferson: There was a girl named Josie and the story was similar although I didn’t have that big a part in her life. That was the first album I had where Rolling Stone and every critic in the world attacked it. Boy they hated every part of that record. It’s hard to overcome the negative feelings you get from that. I don’t think I’ve ever sung that.


Alexandria, VA: Do you remember where you were when you found out that Elvis had died?

Kris Kristofferson: No. I know where I was when Kennedy died. In an officers club in Germany. I think I was on the road when Elvis died and I thought what an awful way to go.


BorÃ¥s, SWEDEN: Hi Kris! I’ve got to tell you I’ve been an admirer of your work since I was born (my mom made sure of that!). I was wondering, do you have any plans for a new studio album? Or what are your next plans?
Love from both me & mom,

Kris Kristofferson: Well, I’m recording some stuff right now with Don Was. I’m going to be in Sweden for a folk festival in June. And I have relatives in Sweden. Unfortunately I was drunk the last time I played for them.


Omagh, Northern Ireland: I saw you in dublin at the end of January, brilliant show, only 19yrs of age, and thought I would never get a chance to see you. Got my guitar signed that night (a small martin backpacker) and a photo from the concert you sent me from London a couple of weeks later for my birthday, many thanks!
I was wondering whether you would be coming back to Ireland or the UK again soon (I would be going to see you and Prine in Killarney, only I already had dylan tickets bought for the same date!) and whether you will be recording again soon?

Kris Kristofferson: Good choice. I see Bob still has clout.


Winter Springs, Fla.: Always been a fan of Kris Kristofferson music but wondered from time to time why your songwriting flamed out so quick, a group of brilliant poetry and then nothing. Always wondered if you made your money and then quit.

Kris Kristofferson: Unfortunately, that’s probably the way it appeared to a lot of people. Once I left Nashville, I don’t think any of my albums got marketed. I was so busy with movies and on the road, so I didn’t realize that people didn’t know I was still writing song. I’ll be writing songs until they throw dirt on me. I wrote good stuff, but it wasn’t marketed. If I sound defensive, that’s exactly what I am. I think Moment of Forever is as good as For the Good Times. I don’t write as many songs, but I still write em.


Springfield, Va.: I came of age in Monterey, Ca, and fell in love listening to your music. I thought “Bobby McGee” was written by Janis Joplin, but I always thought you sang it better. What was your relationship with Janis? Songwriters together? Soulmates? How did you do your music together?

Kris Kristofferson: We didn’t do music together. We got on together. We hit it off and hung out together for a couple of months. She was very funny and straight at the time. Then we kind of went off in different directions. That was the last I saw her. I talked to her on the phone a couple of times. It wasn’t long after that that she died.


Washington, D.C.: One of my favorite albums is the Willie Nelson one where he covers most of your early hits. Have you and Willie thought of doing a “vol. 2”?

Kris Kristofferson: I remember when he did that he said ‘once again I’m saving your sinking career.’ I can’t imagine I could get him to do a whole nother album. But I’d love him to do it. I think Willie’s got plenty of other project.

I hope everybody keeps liking the music and that I get out there. It feels like there’s a reason to be out there singing again.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. “and the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for dessert.” Has a better lyric ever been written?