Kris Kristofferson on being an aging heartthrob, singer and actor

(Kevork Djansezian/ Getty Images ) - Musician Kris Kristofferson performs onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

(Kevork Djansezian/ Getty Images ) - Musician Kris Kristofferson performs onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

Kris Kristofferson, 77, has received so many awards as a songwriter, performer and actor it’s hard to keep track. When the still shaggy-haired and gravelly voiced singer was asked about his recent lifetime achievement Grammy Award, he said: “I am very honored, but I swear I already got that.” Maybe he was remembering his two previous Grammies — for best country song and best duo — or his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Or the Golden Globe he got for acting as a sexy but declining rock star in the movie “A Star Is Born” opposite Barbra Streisand.

Kristofferson first rose to fame when Janis Joplin sang his song “Me and Bobby McGee” and Johnny Cash recorded another, “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” He went on to release 28 albums, sing with, marry and then divorce Rita Coolidge, and help create the band the Highwaymen with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.

Video


Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash perform "Sunday Morning Coming Down" in 1978.

Gallery

His acting career, which began in 1971, has been equally extensive — and ongoing. He has a role in “Dolphin Tale 2,” which is due to be released this fall.

What’s it like for a singer and actor to be approaching 80? Kristofferson is still involved in singing and acting — he’s about to go on tour again. But these days he says, he’s more likely to be found mowing his large plot of land in Maui, Hawaii. He stepped off his tractor recently to talk by phone with The Post.

Let’s talk a bit about your life.

I am sure getting close to the end of the trail. I’m 77 years old, and in my family that is getting pretty close to the end.

Do you think about the end?

Sure. I am grateful every morning I wake up. I’ve a big family full of kids, who laugh all the time and love each other. I feel very grateful with my life, being as public as it has, that I am able to have this now.

How do you spend your days?

I go out on my tractor and mow. I got a huge bunch of land, hundreds of acres and no neighbors. We’ve been out here [in Maui] 33 years. I watch television. I read. I feel like I’m kind of lazy, but I keep the yard looking good. I enjoy looking back on my life. I’m thinking seriously about starting to write about it. I’m going on tour, to Australia and Africa. I’m looking forward to it.

Do you still write music?

I just finished a song for that dolphin movie, “Dolphin Tale 2.” It’s about a real dolphin that goes around with a smile on its face all the time. I’m the father of the guy who saved the dolphin. The old guy in the movie, I guess.

Can you write songs as well now as you did when you were younger?

Well, I don’t write as often. The song I just wrote is really pretty good. I think that will be the last thing to go in terms of your physical and mental abilities, because it was the first thing I can remember doing that was different from anyone else. I was making up songs when I was 11 years old.

How about your singing voice?

It was never anything to brag about. I am sure it sounds older and craggier, which is frightening when you start out with a voice like mine.

Looking back, what do you think of your early years?

Every now and then I think of something I wish I hadn’t done.

Such as?

Oh, I don’t know. Just probably back when I was raising hell and spending all my time out all night and enjoying my freedom from the Army and scholarships. [Kristofferson was a Rhodes scholar and a helicopter pilot in Army]. I was just a songwriter.

You were a sex symbol and a heartthrob.

I know, can you imagine? I was never big or fast, but I got to play football and box. I got concussions and loss of memory. How I kept going in all these things, I think that I was incredibly lucky or blessed by somebody upstairs.

You seem pretty content.

I like my dogs. I like my wife. I have a pretty perfect life. I can still work, not as much as I could, but that’s probably always the case. It wouldn’t kill me if I never had to do another film.

Musically, who interests you?

I listen to some of the old people I knew. I listen to Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard, people that I’ll always respect. I am just thinking of my close friends, who were my heroes, the guys in the Highwaymen — Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash — and George Jones. These people, I can’t tell you how much respect I have for them. To be close friends with all of them was incredible to me.

Do you listen to your old albums?

I did yesterday, as a matter of fact.

Which ones?

“Surreal Thing” [his seventh album, released in 1976] was a good one and a couple after that. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality.

How do you feel physically at age 77?

I feel great. I can’t go out and play football now — I’ve got a little pain in the back. Mentally and physically, I feel fine. I weigh about 160, as I’ve always done. I’m in pretty good shape, good enough to drive my tractor. [He laughs.]

How is it to have eight kids?

It is a surprise. It is a blessing. I haven’t always gotten along with my wives, [Kristofferson has been married to his third wife, Lisa Meyers, since 1983] but I’ve always gotten along with my kids. They’re the best part of my life.

Any regrets?

I might have been a little lazy about the writing of a book. Maybe my mind is too old and forgetful now to do it. At the same time, I’m not going to worry about it because I’ve left a ton of evidence behind me about the creative person I was.

I’d like to be remembered as an honest, creative person who tried to do the right thing.

There were times that put me at odds with my government and my public when I was down working in Nicaragua and El Salvador [and speaking out against the Reagan administration’s efforts against the leftist Sandinistas in Nicaragua]. I don’t regret that at all. I am sorry if I hurt anybody’s feelings along the way. It wasn’t intentional. I tried to be a good person. I think I did all right.

Hambleton is a freelance writer and documentary filmmaker.

 
Read what others are saying