About me, & Kris Kristofferson
I am a kid of the “Baby Boom”. I was born in West London, my parents were both in the first batch of children that were born in England, If it wasn’t for either family drama, work prospects or the war my Dad would have been Irish, my Mum would have been a Scot. Me? Well, I guess I would probably still have manifested along with the other post war offspring somehow. As it is I have been a stranger in a strange world since birth.
My Irish grandparents both died in wartime London. My Dad was raised by kin who became his nuclear family, but despite growing up in London he did once tell me (over a brandy) that if he ever had a real problem he would confide either in a Catholic priest, or a prostitute.
My Mum’s parents lived in London, and I spent more time at their house than anywhere else. They sang, let me watch tv until late, told great stories and showered me with their love, attention and peculiar ways. All this changed when I was nine. We moved to South Africa, and my days of being a Gran’s brat were over. I was an older sister, then a few years later I was the eldest of four children. Oh for those idyllic days of living as an only child….
My family moved – A lot. Most immigrant families did. I am never sure what to say when someone asks what primary school I attended, there were nine in total. At times I almost missed the desperate tone in my Grandparent’s voice when they used to jab me and ask, “MUST you sound so bloody ENGLISH?” The sentiment was the same- minus the love- in my new world. Many locals believed all of us Whities should speak Afrikaans.
Durban was in the most English-speaking of the provinces though, so it wasn’t as big an “Aw…” as it sounds. I have since come to love the Afrikaans language, while remaining annoyingly & embarrassingly less than fluent.
I got hooked on Kristofferson after listening to an LP record that I bought for my Dad back in the 70’s. In those days, our music was Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Alice Cooper. Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Rodriquez were popular in South Africa, partly I guess because we were isolated by sanctions, and partly because the material resonated with our bush war. It also went well with getting stoned.
There was a certain romance in thinking of our boys in brown, all of seventeen and far away, chilling and listening to music of an evening somewhere under a setting sun, dreaming of us girls.
Looking back now, they were strange times, but then it was just daily life. The Apartheid era relied on the police having extended powers to keep peace in the ‘burbs, but we heard stories despite censorship. The times and the country’s love of country/folk music probably had a lot to do with Kristofferson’s music being listened to all over southern Africa.
The lyrics helped young adults make sense of the world they were in as circumstances were pretty similar to the era in America that inspired the songs. The South African/Angolan & Rhodesian bush wars certainly impacted society like the Vietnam War had done abroad. Our wars were just a lot closer to home, & a lot easier for the world to forget.
Young people could easily relate to songs about police brutality, the brotherhood of soldiers, the futility of war and the desperation of poverty and addiction.
Recently we learnt that Sixto Rodriquez never knew he was famous in South Africa. I wonder if Kris Kristofferson will ever know the reach his work had during the same era. I sent him a letter explaining some of these things during one of his UK tours a few years ago, in Glasgow. There was no opportunity to get an autograph, but I did give the supporting act singer some DVDs and the letter on the understanding that I might not get them back. I was delighted when they were returned to me, signed, a few days later at a gig in Edinburgh. Did Kris read my 5 page letter? I believe he did, & might explain why in another post.
Kris did eventually gig in Cape Town not too long ago, maybe he does have an inkling of how much his music meant to so many. Young people who could often only source music on tapes that were copied from other tapes as imports got trickier as sanctions bit. Nearly everyone I know had a copy of his first album, or at least some tracks from it on their home-made TDK compilation tapes.
The marriage of Apartheid era fans to the music of a man who personifies left-wing, freedom politics is truly ironic. There again, life can be strange.
This blog has been a long time coming. Anyone familiar with Kris Kristofferson’s music will know that it has evolved like we have with the years. Long may he strum xXx© kriskristoffersonfan.com unless otherwise stated