Guys Like Him

2018 Kris Kristofferson - by 2eight - DSC5043 cropped
I dig Bobby Dylan
and I dig Johnny Cash
and I think Waylon Jennings
is a table-thumping smash
And hearing Joni Mitchell
feels as good as smoking grass
And if you don't like
Hank Williams, honey
You can kiss my ass.

Country music star Toby Keith accepted the Presidential Medal of Arts from Trump on January 13th.  Keith accepted the award one week after Trump incited a riot at the U.S. Capitol by his supporters that killed 5 people and injured at least 50 police officers. It's a weak argument to say Keith is just a singer and not political. He wrote a song glorifying military aggression. Keith writes patriotic songs but has never served in the military. He has done 11 tours with the USO between 2002 and 2013.

After the news of the award come out, a Music Director and Producer from Oregon Public Broadcasting (@jeradwalker) posted some text from a 2009 Rolling Stone profile of Kris Kristofferson on Twitter. I had never heard the story before but thought it was funny enough to write a post about.  I'm not going to write a bio of Kristofferson here but as far as military service no one can argue that Kristofferson hasn't paid his dues. A few highlights...

  • U.S. Army Airborne Ranger, attained the rank of Captain.
  • Professional helicopter pilot
  • Instructor at West Point
  • Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University where he studied Shakespeare and Blake
  • He wrote Me and Bobby McGee, a number one hit for Janis Joplin
  • Four-time Grammy winner
  • Academy award nominee
  • Golden Globe winner 

Actor and Director Ethan Hawke wrote a lengthy and detailed profile of Kristofferson in 2009 for Rolling Stone. In it Hawke tells a story about an event backstage at the Beacon Theater in New York in 2003. Present were Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Ray Charles.  A lot of other stars were there for Willie Nelson's 70th birthday celebration and concert.  Hawke wrote that a country music star walked by.  He doesn't reveal the star's name but says "...the Star had a monster radio hit about bombing America’s enemies back into the Stone Age.".  Obviously, it could only be Toby Keith. Hawke's story ...

As he (Keith) passed Kristofferson out of the corner of his mouth came “None of that lefty shit out there tonight, Kris.”

“What the fuck did you just say to me?” Kris growled, stepping forward.

“Oh, no,” groaned Willie under his breath. “Don’t get Kris all riled up.”

“You heard me,” the Star said, walking away in the darkness.

“Don’t turn your back to me, boy,” Kristofferson shouted.

The Star turned around: “I don’t want any problems, Kris – I just want you to tone it down.”

“You ever worn your country’s uniform?” Kris asked rhetorically.

“Don’t ‘What?’ me, boy! You heard the question. You just don’t like the answer.” He paused just long enough to get a full chest of air. “I asked, ‘Have you ever served your country?’ The answer is, no, you have not. Have you ever killed another man? Huh? Have you ever taken another man’s life and then cashed the check your country gave you for doing it? No, you have not. So shut the fuck up!” I could feel his body pulsing with anger next to me. “You don’t know what the hell you are talking about!”

“Whatever,” the young Star muttered.

Ray Charles stood motionless. Willie Nelson looked at me and shrugged mischievously like a kid in the back of the classroom.

Kristofferson took a deep inhale and leaned against the wall, still vibrating with adrenaline. He looked over at Willie as if to say, “Don’t say a word.” Then his eyes found me.

“You know what Waylon Jennings said about guys like him?” he whispered.

I shook my head.

“They’re doin’ to country music what pantyhose did to finger-fuckin’.” 

Toby Keith denied that it ever happened. Kristofferson, trying to be diplomatic, said he didn't remember it but his wife does. Kristofferson played with Willie and Waylon and was a big part of the original outlaw country movement. Kris Kristofferson is the real deal.

On a personal note, I'm always suspicious of someone who is a little too patriotic. Maybe they are trying to overcompensate?  And no, I've never served in the military but I'm not insecure about it like some people.


 Kris Kristofferson: The Last Outlaw Poet

Toby Keith livid about Rolling Stone story

 Foto: Stefan Brending, Lizenz: Creative Commons by-sa-3.0 de, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons