Kris Kristofferson, the country legend, initially faced a challenging health journey when doctors suspected his painful symptoms were related to Alzheimer’s and treated him with medication that worsened his condition. However, after being correctly diagnosed with Lyme disease and receiving the appropriate treatment, Kristofferson, now a healthy 86-year-old, has triumphed over his health struggles.
Kristofferson, known for his immortal status as a superstar, embraces his mortality and wishes to have the opening lines of Leonard Cohen’s song, “Bird on a Wire,” engraved on his tombstone. With his sky-blue eyes, silvery hair, and well-groomed beard, he has remained a fan favorite throughout his nearly 55-year-long career.
Interestingly, Kristofferson’s iconic beard wasn’t planned but emerged unexpectedly. During a hospital stay for pneumonia, he couldn’t shave, and a magazine captured his picture, labeling it as “the new face of country music.” This incident inadvertently set a trend for facial hair in country music, with even Willie Nelson adopting the wild look. Kristofferson humorously claims credit for inspiring Nelson’s beard and recalls their friendly banter about it.
Beyond his trendsetting facial hair, Kristofferson’s accomplishments span various domains. He is an Oxford scholar, a defensive back, a boxer, a helicopter pilot, a superstar actor and musician, and a devoted family man. As a highly regarded wordsmith, he possesses a unique vibe that resonates with his fans.
After graduating from Oxford in 1960, Kristofferson served in the military and later worked as a commercial pilot at Louisiana’s Petroleum Helicopters International. During his off-duty hours, he would sit on an oil platform, crafting future hits such as “Help Me Make it Through the Night” and “Bobby McGee.”
Kristofferson’s journey to stardom took a bold turn when he met Johnny Cash while working as a janitor in a recording studio. Cash recognized his talent, and Kris made a lasting impression by landing a helicopter in Cash’s yard to deliver a tape of “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” This act propelled Kristofferson’s career, and he eventually stole the show at the Newport Folk Festival, leaving Cash proud of his achievements.
With hit songs like “For the Good Times” and “Why Me Lord,” Kristofferson’s career soared to new heights. His compositions have been performed by legendary artists such as Cash, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan, many of whom he considers his heroes. In 1985, he joined forces with Waylon Jennings, Cash, and Nelson to form the supergroup The Highwaymen, receiving accolades for their work.
Bob Dylan holds a special place in Kristofferson’s heart as his greatest hero. Their paths crossed at the same recording studio where Kris worked as a janitor. Kris was awestruck by Dylan’s work ethic but refrained from bothering him. Over the years, Kristofferson has performed numerous Dylan songs, always regarding him as a hero.
Reflecting on other artists covering his songs, Kristofferson humbly admits that every performer has done them better than he did. He highlights his profound emotional response to Janis Joplin’s rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee” and their close relationship before her untimely death. The posthumous release of her version held the number one spot for weeks in 1971.
In addition to his musical achievements, Kristofferson’s personal life has been filled with notable encounters. He has been married three times, with eight children from these marriages. He has been romantically linked to starlets like Jane Fonda, Carly Simon, and Samantha Eggar. Despite undeniable on-screen chemistry, his co-star in A Star is Born, Barbara Streisand, was never his romantic partner. He held immense respect and admiration for her extraordinary talent.
In the late 1990s, Kristofferson’s health declined significantly. He underwent successful heart bypass surgery in 1999. However, in 2004, he started experiencing debilitating symptoms that led doctors to diagnose him with Alzheimer’s disease. They also identified fibromyalgia, which should have prompted an investigation into Lyme disease. Kristofferson endured excruciating spasms and sought various treatments, including acupuncture and medication. Eventually, an integrative doctor diagnosed him with Lyme disease in 2016, leading to his remarkable recovery. His wife, Lisa Meyers, believes he contracted the disease while filming Disappearances in Vermont.
Having undergone an arduous medical journey, Kristofferson has rebounded after receiving proper treatment for Lyme disease. Some days, he appears perfectly normal, and his battle with illness becomes easy to forget. When the time comes, he has expressed his desire to have the following lines etched on his tombstone: “Like a bird on the wire, Like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.”
Kris Kristofferson’s remarkable career as a pilot, scholar, actor, musician, and father places him among the top tier of influential figures. His struggles with health and subsequent recovery from Lyme disease have brought him renewed vitality. It is a joyous occasion to witness his proper diagnosis and effective management of Lyme disease symptoms.