Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kris, Woody, and Entitlements

Kris Kristofferson was interviewed on NPR recently and, as I listened, I was reminded of how he has touched my life in so many ways through the years.  I was always a fan of his music and for a while lived in the Bay area where he grew up.  A close friend had gone to high school with his first wife (and was convinced he treated her shamefully).

Several years back another friend introduced me to a wonderful film he narrated called Brats: Our Journey Home, which I have recommended to several people since, as an excellent explanation of why military Brats, of which Kris was a third generation, share a common bond, irrespective of their age.

Mary and I had seen him not that long ago playing in what I guess was his fiftieth year of touring.  His philosophy of the military and patriotism has modified itself through the years, but is something I can respect and admire.

The Highwaymen
In the interview he sprinkled explanations of why he went to Nashville, what was it like at Oxford, why he continues to write music and tour, with what were his fondest memories.  One of these last was his touring with The Highwaymen.  In case you are too young to remember this super star group, it spanned ten years from 1985-1995, made three best-selling albums, and was comprised of four influential Country Singers: Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and the legendary Johnny Cash.

Kris said he was in awe of Cash, partly because the song Cash recorded, Sunday Morning Coming Down effectively launched Kristofferson’s career.

Nowhere in the interview did Kris make mention of Woody Guthrie, a fact that surprised me because this is the 100th anniversary of his birth (or was that last year?).  But when he mentioned the
connection with Cash, I realized that his influence and first love was Country, not Folk music.

This fact was made more obvious when Mary and I went to the 54th Anniversary of the Folk Reunion featuring: The Limelighters, The Brandywine Singers, the “original” Chad Mitchell Trio, one of whom is now an Orange County Priest and was in the front row, and an artist we first saw early in our marriage in a small Boston coffee house: Tom Paxton.

Tom Paxton - 2007
Paxton, who has remained a favorite of ours through the years, sang several songs, some new, some novelty and some like Rambling Boy, perennial signatures.  Like Kris, Tom had a story of his breakthrough, which came when he had a chance to meet his idol, again not Woody Guthrie, but Pete Seeger, who Tom claims single-handedly taught Folk Music and Folk composition to at least three generations.  Tom asked Pete if he would listen to a song and, with permission sang Rambling Boy.

Not only did Pete encourage Tom, he sang the song a week later for a live recording session: with the Weavers; at Carnegie Hall.

I was reminded in those two stories of how long and hard is the road to stardom for performers.  Aside from the world of art, which occasionally attracts benefactors to young artists, the rest of the entertainment world is hard and full of personal challenge.

With all the recent talk about entitlements, I was reminded of a song by the entertainer, Janis Joplin, which I originally thought might have been written by Kristofferson (not).  It might have been a plea for entitlement.  She called it Mercedes Benz and it is worth a listen.  The words are:

 “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz

My friends all drive Porches, I must make amends

Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends

Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz


Oh Lord won’t you buy me a color TV

Dialing for Dollars is trying to find me

I wait for delivery each day until 3

Oh Lord won’t you buy me a color TV.


Oh Lord won’t you buy me a night on the town

I’m counting on you Lord, please don’t let me down.

Prove that you love me and buy the next round

Oh Lord won’t you buy me a night on the town.

Perhaps ironically, and certainly meaningfully, the petition is not to the government, but to God.  Interesting concept.

Another topic in the news lately is Unions.  I might take a swing at how Unions fit into my life in my next post.  Hope to see you there.

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