You Should See Me Do My Day Job
Rock and roll people who do other stuff too.
Have you seen that Saturday Night Live sketch about ‘Bill Brasky’? It features a group of salesmen extolling the virtues of “the best damn salesman in the company”, with each taking turns to attribute ever-more-outlandish feats of heroism to the revered, semi-mythical figure… “Bill Brasky once used a live rattle snake as a condom!”… “They say Gene Roddenberry got the idea for Star Trek by listening to Brasky talk in his sleep”… “All the Yes album covers are Brasky family photos… “We once had a bachelor party for Brasky. He ate the entire cake before we could tell him there was a stripper in it.”
It feels a bit like that, describing the career of Kris Kristofferson. He started as a writer in Nashville, penning hits like ‘Me And Bobby McGee’ and possibly the finest morning-after-the-night-before-song ‘Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down’ and was responsible for transforming country songwriting. His unique, gravely voice gave him several hits in his own right and one superb album, The Silver Tongued Devil And I.
His career outside music has been Brasky-esque. He has: been in Sports Illustrated as a rugby star; been a Rhodes Scholar; won a Blue for boxing at Oxford; been a Captain in the US Army; flown helicopters for a petroleum company; been a janitor at Columbia Records; been too scared to approach Dylan there in case he got fired; dated Janis Joplin and Barbara Streisand; been introduced at the Newport Folk Festival by his friend and idol Johnny Cash; won a Golden Globe for A Star Is Born; been in several Sam Peckinpah films; been in a supergroup with : Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson; endorsed Barack Obama; been a peace activist in Nicaragua; been married three times and fathered eight children.
He also once punched a hole in a cow just to see who was coming up the road. Or was that Brasky?
He writes for Vanity Fair and interviewed Joni Mitchell, one of his oft-cited influences, for the magazine. He produced The Specials’ debut album and one of The Pogues’ best records, Rum, Sodomy And The Lash. He was involved with Rock Against Racism, Live Aid – where he sung ‘All You Need Is Love’ after introducing it as “a traditional northern folk song” – and an anti-unemployment benefit in Ireland in the Eighties.
He composed the music for Alan Bleasdale’s brilliant TV series GBH, and won a BAFTA for it. He won acclaim in the classical music world for his project with the Brodsky Quartet, and has been the artistic director for the film and performance art Meltdown Festival in London. He appeared in Austin Powers with Burt Bacharach, singing ‘What The World Needs Now’, and has been in 30 Rock, Frasier and Two And A Half Men. He has appeared in opera, and in 2004, his first full-scaled orchestral work, a ballet based on Midsummer Night’s Dream, was a critical triumph in New York.
He is writing an opera for the Danish Royal Opera, and was eaten by a bear on Stephen Colbert’s Christmas Special. It is understood he may also have recorded some pop or rock music of note too. Well done Declan.
In the mid-eighties, Def Jam kahuna Rick Rubin heard a demo track by a Long Island native called Carlton Douglas Ridenhour after his tape was passed on by no less a personage than Dr Dre. He signed Carlton – Chuck D – up immediately, and helped (and sometimes hindered) by Flavor Flav, Professor Griff and company, Chuck D went on to sell millions of records on the way to Public Enemy’s broad recognition as the most influential rap band of them all.
But aside from making music, he has had a huge impact on society as a whole, as a writer, lecturer and producer. He has testified before Congress in regard to peer-to-peer file sharing (he is pro); he has narrated a documentary about conflict diamonds and their role in fashion; he seems to have some sort of beef with President Sarkozy of France, occasionally popping up in the media for a tirade about him. He’s written and spoken extensively about artists taking control of their own music and careers and finding ways of not being controlled by record companies. He’s even been a panellist on Newsnight in the UK!
AT & JN