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Rock at Wofford

Written By: information_management - Dec• 02•08

Maybe there aren't many people around the campus now who know who Kris Kristofferson is.  So a blog post about a concert he put on in Andrews Fieldhouse in October 1971 might have an appeal only to a certain generation.  Perhaps best known as the author of "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Help Me Make It Through The Night," Kristofferson was a singer-songwriter, and later an actor.  He's not your typical modern musician. 

 A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Pomona College in 1958, Kristofferson went on to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, taking an MA in English literature there in 1960.  He went into the army, becoming a Ranger and a helicopter pilot.  He resigned from the army in 1965 as a captain to pursue a music career.  He was at a high point in his career in 1971, having won two major songwriting awards the previous year.  Many of his songs were performed by other artists who made them more widely known. 

When Kristofferson played Andrews Fieldhouse in 1971, here's what Old Gold and Black writer Andrew Delaplaine had to say

On Sunday last Kris Kristofferson gave a concert in Andrews Fieldhouse which about 1500 people attKristofferson001ended. 

The performance given was straightforward, unhurried, easy, and there were no frills, no gimmicks, no nonsense — just singing, and he sang almost all of his known songs, as well as a few new ones and some which were not his. 

"Me and Bobby McGee" was sung near the end; this is the song that perhaps more recording artists have recorded than any other Kristofferson song.  "Help me make it through the night" "The Law is for Protection of the People" and "Duvalier's Dream" were all given, each interrupted at the beginning by heavy applause.

… Kristofferson's songs can create instant mood; the music is all subdued and pretty much the same.  It follows what lyricism there is in the words and derives most of its melody from the rhythms of the words. 

One of his best songs in terms of poetic images has got to be "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," which is so full of the images of emptiness and loneliness of the character involved that the intention of the poet is immediately made apparent.  The character feels a sudden distaste for Sunday mornings that he can't exactly explain except to say that people only feel that particular way on Sunday morning; there is something special about Sunday morning.  One of the points of the songs is to show what Sunday and really the rest of the week too, is like for someone who has no God.  It's lonely, it's purposeless and shiftless. 

It probably warrants more time to talk about Kristofferson and God.  His songs constantly refer to Jesus, God, etc.  Usually he laments the lack of importance we give God in our lives and shows how a people pay for senseless living.  But he gives a dimension to the lives of sleazy characters in barrooms and whorehouses, nobodys and liars, and all the people with broken dreams or hopeless attitudes toward life that is genuine and sincere.  And he does this with some pretty good poetry… 

This brings me to his lyrics, which are superb in general and in particular.  Kristofferson's music is nice and catchy, but its source has already been identified. Kristofferson, who looks a little like Lloyd Bridges with a beard, cannot sing.  That's why I don't talk on about how he builds up to a climax of emotion and sound, as Streisand always does, and then caps it off with a little reprise of the last sixteen bars.  Kristofferson can't even pretend to sing.  The only reason you can have for liking his low droning is that he actually sounds in every song like he just woke up on Sunday morning and wants an excuse for going to Sunday school. 

As I said, there are no gimmicks in Kristofferson's show.  He comes out, sings, and leaves.  He is a great ad-libber, and his songs are constructed such that he has plenty of opportunities to get in some funny lines, which are funny only because they are juxtaposed with unusually different lyrics.  When the fellow operating one of the spots flicked on a blue filter to add variety, Kristofferson looked up at him and gave a chuckle as if to ask, what the hell did he think he was doing?  Blue lights didn't change the song.  Also, when the audience started clapping time to one of his songs, Kristofferson stopped singing and told the audience to quit, that he couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time, which was to say, you can't hear the words and think about them if you clap at the same time.  Plus it disturbed him a little.  But he was amused by these things.  His show is stripped of all unnecessary gimmicks or selling features.  It's an honest show, and I liked it. 

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