Kris Kristofferson was born in Brownsville, Texas, on 22 December 1936. He attended Pomona College, where he achieved a degree in literature and specialised in the poetry of Blake. Whilst at college, he published a series of short stories in Atlantic Monthly, and went on to win a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford.
It was in 1958, during his stay in England, that Kristofferson first performed his own music, under the pseudonym ‘Kris Carson’. After graduating from Oxford, Kristofferson served in the US army for five years and, upon being discharged, turned down a teaching post in order to pursue his music career in Nashville.
Kristofferson soon scored musical successes, having his songs covered by the likes of Roger Miller and Jerry Lee Lewis, but it was not until Johnny Cash gained a number one hit with Kristofferson’s 'Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down' that he achieved fame as a songwriter. Both Sammi Smith and Janis Joplin went on to top the charts with Kristofferson-penned numbers and, in 1970, he unveiled his first, eponymous, studio release.
Kristofferson both wrote the soundtrack for, and appeared, in 'The Last Movie' (1971), as well as starring opposite Gene Hackman in 'Cisco Pike' (1972). In the same year, he scored his first musical hit with 'Why Me?', and went on to star in Sam Peckinpah’s seminal 'Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid' (1973). A further collaboration with Peckinpah, 'Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia' (1974), as well as a turn opposite the Oscar-winning Ellen Burstyn, in Martin Scorcese’s 'Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore' (1974) cemented his position as a reliable screen presence.
Kristofferson secured a breakthrough hit opposite Barbara Streisland, in 1976’s 'A Star is Born' and, although he appeared in a number of films in the next five years, a string of commercial flops such as Michael Cimino’s disastrous 'Heaven’s Gate' (1981) left his movie career reeling.
He spent much of the next decade in a number of television roles, but concentrated on pursuing his music career with country super-group 'The Highwaymen', whose eponymous debut went to No.1 in 1985.
After a decade in the wilderness of television mini-series and straight-to-video fare, Kristofferson’s career underwent a major renaissance with the release of a Don Was-produced solo album, 'A Moment of Forever', and a starring role in John Sayles’ 1995 masterpiece, 'Lone Star'. He has since revived his Hollywood career with parts in 'Payback' (1998), the 'Blade' films (1998, 2001) and 'Limbo'.
Overall, Kristofferson has appeared in some 45 films, and recorded over 25 albums, and he remains one of the most successful country and western songwriters of his generation.