American singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson has had a string of major successes penning hits in the country music genre that also crossed over to become pop and rock hits. Despite Kristofferson's inclusion in a group of recording artists/writers regarded as "outlaw country," his songs have had mainstream commercial appeal and several have gone on to become classics. His own recording career has produced a solid fan base at the same time as other artists such as Janis Joplin, Ray Price, Sammi Smith, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash were notching huge hits with songs written by Kristofferson. He has also had a parallel career as an actor. Here are 10 of the best known and best loved Kris Kristofferson songs.
This is a pure country song that deals with the frequently visited themes of loss of love and turning to alcohol for solace. Even though the story is downbeat the track's tempo is lively and infectious with a catchy hook.
Kristofferson often has religious overtones in his country songs. Not really country gospel, but this ballad is about gratitude to the higher power for undeserved blessings and pledging to walk the straight and narrow in the future. The track also features a spoken word intro.
This song features Dolly Parton on the main lead vocal. It was featured in the 2012 film "Joyful Noise." Kristofferson appeared in the movie with Parton and adds his voice to the track. Parton wrote the song and would later re-record it with Willie Nelson.
A cautionary tale about the perils of addiction, this tune specifically name-checks Johnny Cash and his overcoming some hard times. Kristofferson references Music City Row in Nashville in the spoken word intro to this song which is also about following your dreams and your heart.
This was recently featured in the HBO series "True Detective." It is both hard-edged and sweet. There is a vibe that is also somewhat reminiscent of the songs of Leonard Cohen.
Cover versions of this Kristofferson composition would become hits twice. The first by Ray Stevens in 1969, then a chart-topping country hit for Johnny Cash the following year. It is somber and filled with well-articulated imagery about "the morning after" which is frequent K.K. territory.
This was a track from Kristofferson's 1971 album The Silver Tongued Devil And I . It was also released as a single and peaked at number 26. As is the case with a number of Kristofferson's hits, the lyrics are a nostalgic ode to a lost love. The tune was also recorded by Willie Nelson among others.
This tune originally appeared on Kristofferson's self-titled debut album. It was later released as a single by Ray Price and went on to top the country charts. The song is a wistful reflection on the end of a relationship. It is bittersweet and struck a chord with listeners. The Ray Price version was chosen as Song of the Year by The Academy of Country Music in 1970.
From the 1970 album Kristofferson, this song has a had a much-traveled chart life as covered by numerous artists over the years, including Loretta Lynn and Elvis Presley. The most successful version is by Sammi Smith, whose recording topped the country charts. It is a poignant ballad about love and loss.
Janis Joplin's legendary cover of this Kristofferson tune was the biggest hit of her career as a solo artist. The songwriter's own version is a bit more stripped down, slower, and more mournful, but every bit as soulful. The song is both a country music and rock classic.