Doctors initially suspected that Kris Kristofferson’s health symptoms were indicative of Alzheimer’s disease and began treating him with medication. Unfortunately, the medication only worsened his condition. However, after finally being diagnosed with Lyme disease and receiving the appropriate treatment, Kristofferson, now a healthy 86-year-old, has overcome his health challenges.
Despite his iconic status as a country legend, Kristofferson embraces his mortality and has expressed a desire to have the first three lines of Leonard Cohen’s song, “Bird on a Wire,” engraved on his tombstone. With his captivating voice, the world recognized the birth of a star when Kristofferson shared his vocals. His striking sky-blue eyes, silver hair, and impeccably groomed beard have made him a beloved figure among fans for nearly 55 years.
Interestingly, Kristofferson reveals that his beard was not a deliberate choice. He attributes its origin to a bout of pneumonia that required a week-long hospital stay during which he couldn’t shave. When he emerged from the hospital, a magazine captured a picture of him and dubbed it “the new face of country music.” Since then, his dear friend Willie Nelson has also sported a wild beard. Kristofferson humorously claims credit for inspiring Nelson’s facial hair and mentions that Nelson used to tease him about it.
Beyond his influence on facial hair trends, Kristofferson is a multi-faceted individual. Hailing from Texas, he is an Oxford scholar, a former defensive back, a boxer, a helicopter pilot, a renowned actor and musician, and a devoted family man. As one of the greatest wordsmiths of our time, he possesses a unique aura that may elude those who fail to grasp it fully.
After graduating from Oxford in 1960, Kristofferson served in the military before securing a job as a commercial pilot at Louisiana’s Petroleum Helicopters International. During his downtime on offshore oil platforms, he penned future hits such as “Help Me Make it Through the Night” and “Me and Bobby McGee.”
To make a name for himself in the music industry, Kristofferson seized an opportunity when he met Johnny Cash while working as a janitor at the recording studio where Cash was recording. Cash acknowledged that he and many others discovered Kristofferson’s talent around the same time. In a bold move, Kristofferson landed a helicopter in Cash’s yard and presented him with a tape containing the song “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Impressed, Cash featured the song on a network television show, praising Kristofferson and propelling him towards success. Kristofferson later stole the show at the Newport Folk Festival, further cementing his rise to stardom. Cash fondly recalled his pride in Kristofferson’s achievements.
Kristofferson’s career soared to incredible heights, surpassing even the heights reachable by a helicopter. His songs, including “For the Good Times” and “Why Me Lord,” have been performed by renowned artists like Cash, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan, whom Kristofferson considers his hero.
In 1985, Kristofferson joined forces with country superstars Waylon Jennings, Cash, and Nelson to form the supergroup known as The Highwaymen. The title track from their first album won the Academy of Country Music’s Single of the Year award.
Reflecting on his experiences, Kristofferson often found himself in awe of the musicians he admired. He recalled his admiration for Bob Dylan, who also recorded at the studio where Kristofferson worked as a janitor. Observing Dylan’s work process, Kristofferson was inspired but chose not to disturb him. Instead, he silently emptied the trash cans while observing the musical genius at work.
As a fellow star in the music industry, Kris Kristofferson has performed numerous songs by Bob Dylan and still considers him a hero. He humbly acknowledges that every artist who has covered his own songs has done them better than he did. One rendition that particularly moved him was Janis Joplin’s powerful performance of “Me and Bobby McGee.” Joplin, once Kristofferson’s lover, tragically passed away in 1970, and hearing her posthumous version of the song deeply affected him. Her rendition held the number one spot for weeks in 1971.
Kristofferson, a father of eight children from three marriages (Fran Beer, singer Rita Coolidge, and current spouse Lisa Meyers), has had connections with several notable actresses, including Jane Fonda, Carly Simon, and Samantha Eggar. Although he shared undeniable chemistry with Barbara Streisand during their collaboration on “A Star is Born” (1976), he clarifies that they were never romantically involved. Kristofferson, who portrayed a rockstar in the film, expressed awe and fear of the immensely talented Streisand, who played the aspiring singer. Working with someone of her caliber was both intimidating and thrilling for him.
In the late 1990s, Kristofferson’s health began to deteriorate. He underwent successful heart bypass surgery in 1999, but in 2004, he started experiencing debilitating symptoms. Doctors initially diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s disease, overlooking the possibility of Lyme disease, despite the presence of fibromyalgia symptoms. The pain he endured was excruciating, with spasms spreading throughout his back and legs, causing intense discomfort akin to painful contractions.
Various treatments were attempted, including acupuncture, heat therapy, and massage. Eventually, a rheumatologist administered a spinal cortisone shot, and a low dose of an antidepressant was prescribed to alleviate his ongoing agony. However, these measures only provided temporary relief. Kristofferson’s health continued to decline, prompting his wife of 40 years, Lisa Meyers, to insist on consulting an integrative doctor. Finally, in 2016, he received a diagnosis of Lyme disease. Meyers believes he was bitten by an infected tick while filming “Disappearances” (2006), where he spent significant time in the grassy-covered forests of Vermont.
Meyers expressed frustration that her husband had been taking medications for conditions he didn’t have, such as Alzheimer’s and depression, which had their own side effects. She noticed a remarkable turnaround after just three weeks of Lyme disease treatment. Kristofferson experienced a significant rebound, with some days feeling completely normal. It’s easy to forget that he is battling any health issues at all, according to Meyers.
Looking ahead, Kristofferson has expressed his desire to have the following lines engraved 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.” These words hold deep meaning for him and reflect his journey through life.
Kristofferson’s career has been nothing short of extraordinary. From his diverse roles as a pilot, scholar, actor, musician, and devoted father, he has consistently excelled in various fields. His proper diagnosis and effective management of Lyme disease have brought him relief and renewed vitality. We are delighted that he can continue to contribute to the world of music and inspire others with his enduring talent.