Doctors began treating Kris Kristofferson with drugs that only made his situation worse since they thought his excruciating health symptoms might be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Kristofferson, now 86, is well thanks to a timely Lyme disease diagnosis and the appropriate course of treatment.
He also recognizes his mortality and wants the opening three lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s song “Bird on a Wire,” which are immortalized in his tombstone, despite the fact that he is an immortal celebrity.
The world realized a star had been born the instant Kris Kristofferson unleashed his vocals.
Since he began his profession about 55 years ago, his silvery hair, silver eyes, and finely trimmed beard have made him a darling of the public.
He claims that the beard was not intended. In an interview with the Guardian, Kristofferson said, “I developed pneumonia and had to spend a week in the hospital; I didn’t shave the whole time.
“And when I came out, some magazine took a picture of me and called it ‘the new face of country music’. Ever since then Willie, too, has just looked as wild as heck.”
The actor of the Marvel’s Blade series claims responsibility for Willie Nelson’s beard and adds, “You know, he didn’t even have a beard back then. The first beard in country music history was mine. And he used to treat me badly for it!”
The Texas-born Casanova is an Oxford scholar, a defensive back, a boxer, a helicopter pilot, a superstar actor and musician, and a family man, among other accomplishments. He also sets trends for facial hair.
Kris Kristofferson is one of the truly great wordsmiths of our time, and if you don’t catch that sense, you probably never will.Following his graduation from Oxford in 1960, he entered the military before finding employment as a commercial pilot with Petroleum Helicopters International in Louisiana. He spent his free time sitting on an oil platform, writing songs that would go on to become successes, including “Help Me Make it Through the Night” and “Bobby McGee.”
The young musician took a risk to stand out when he met Johnny Cash while serving as janitor in the recording studio.
“I discovered him, and so did a lot of other people about the same time,” said Cash, of Kristofferson, in an old interview. “That’s how I got many of Kris’s songs, but then he became so impatient one day he landed a helicopter in my yard and brought me a tape of “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” I thought, well, it’s time to really give this guy a listen, so I heard that song, and I did it on a network television show and talked about Kris, and he was on his way, then he went to Newport Folk Festival and stole my show, and he did great. I was proud of him.”
Even a helicopter couldn’t fly to the heights that Kristofferson’s career attained.
And many of his songs, like “For the Good Times” and “Why Me Lord,” which he regards as his heroes, have been covered by artists including Johnny Cash, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan. He formed the supergroup The Highwaymen in 1985 with Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson. The title track from their debut album was named the Academy of Country Music’s single of the year.
“Every time that I’d be standing there on stage, at least at some point in the show, I had to just pinch myself to realize that I was really up there on the stage. Every one of these guys was my hero before I even knew them,” Kristofferson explained, saying he volunteered his services as a janitor one Saturday at Columbia Recording studios in Nashville because that was when Waylon was doing a demo. “I’d never heard anything like him. Because Johnny Cash, as human as he is –or was–he was always larger than life. He always felt like something right off of Mount Rushmore.”
Bob Dylan, who also made recordings in the studio Kristofferson cleaned, is his major inspiration. The vocalist of “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” recalled his first experience with Dylan by saying, “It was a great eye-opener to see the way he worked. At the time, I was very much in awe of him. But I never communicated with him in any way. I wanted to avoid bothering him. I was merely emptying the garbage cans as I observed him.
Since becoming a celebrity himself, Kristofferson has performed a number of Dylan songs and claims that “He’s still a hero.”
“Every performer that’s performed my songs has done them better than I did. I guess Janis doing “Me and Bobby McGee” was one that moved me profoundly, because of our relationship,” he said of the singer, once his lover, who died in 1970. “I got to know her not too long before she died. But we were close. [The first time I heard her version,] unfortunately, she had just died. And it blew me away,” he said of the woman, whose posthumous version of “Me and Bobby Mcgee” held the number one spot for weeks in 1971.
With three wives—singer Rita Coolidge, actress Fran Beer, and his current wife Lisa Meyers—Kristofferson has fathered eight children. He has also dated celebrities like Jane Fonda, Carly Simon, and Samantha Eggar.
Although Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand, his co-star in A Star is Born (1976), had undeniable chemistry, they never got romantically connected. The award-winning rock performer Kristofferson said he was in awe of the extremely well-known Streisand, whose on-screen persona was the aspiring singer. Later, he admitted, “I was scared to death of her,” adding, “it’s exciting to work with someone who has that much talent.”
His health started to deteriorate noticeably in the late 1990s. Up until 1999, when he underwent successful cardiac bypass surgery, Kristofferson’s health was excellent. He began exhibiting a number of incapacitating symptoms in 2004, at which point he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He was also given a fibromyalgia diagnosis, which ought to have been the first clue that a Lyme test was necessary.
Painful spasms spread across Kris’s back and legs, creating severe discomfort. His nerve endings experienced agonizing contractions the size of golf ball-sized knots as a result of the acute spasms.
His ailment was treated using a variety of methods, such as massage, heat therapy, and acupuncture. A spinal cortisone injection was eventually given by a rheumatologist, and a modest dose of an antidepressant was recommended to ease the agony.
“He had painful knees and annual knee shots, a pacemaker for arrhythmias–which we now know could be from Lyme–so much Advil for headaches that he got anemic,” said Lisa Meyers, his wife of 40 years.
“After a year of iron supplements and seeing a hematologist, he just wasn’t healthy-looking.”
In 2016, after she insisted that her husband visit an integrative physician, he was formally identified as having Lyme disease. He spent a lot of time crawling through the grassy grounds of a Vermont woodland when filming Disappearances (2006), according to Meyers, who believes he got bitten by an infected tick.
“He was taking all these medications for things he doesn’t have, and they all have side effects,” Meyers said of the medication for Alzheimer’s and depression. Meyers adds that after three weeks of Lyme-disease treatment, Kristofferson rebounded. “All of a sudden he was back. Some days he’s perfectly normal and it’s easy to forget that he is even battling anything,” she said.
But, when the days comes, Kristofferson wants etched in his tombstone these lines: “Like a bird on the wire, Like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.”
The career of Kris Kristofferson has been incredible! He is truly top notch as a pilot, scholar, musician, actor, and father!
We are extremely grateful that he obtained a correct diagnosis and that medical professionals were able to assist him in managing his Lyme disease symptoms.