Why Me (Kris Kristofferson song)
|Single by Kris Kristofferson|
|from the album Jesus Was a Capricorn|
|Recorded||July 8, 1972|
|Label||Monument Records 31909|
|Kris Kristofferson singles chronology|
Kristofferson had become the toast of Nashville in the early 1970s, with the massive success of compositions including "For the Good Times," "Me and Bobby McGee," "Sunday Morning Coming Down," and "Help Me Make It Through the Night", among many others. He had a hit of his own as well, with "Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)."
"Why Me" was recorded by Kristofferson in 1972, and features backing vocals by soon-to-be wife Rita Coolidge and up-and-coming singer-songwriter Larry Gatlin. It was included on the album, Jesus Was a Capricorn and, in 1973, the song became the biggest hit of his career.
According to country music historian Bill Malone, Kristofferson wrote the song during an emotionally low period of his life after having attended a religious service conducted by the Rev. Jimmie Rogers Snow. Malone wrote, "'Why Me, Lord'" - as the song is sometimes known - "may seem greatly out of character for Kristofferson, but it can be interpreted as his own personal religious rephrasing of 'Sunday Morning Coming Down.' In this case, he is 'coming down' not from drugs, but from the whole hedonistic euphoria of the (1960s)." Malone also described Kristofferson's gruff vocal styling as "perfect" for the song, since "he sounds like a man who has lived a lot but is now humbling himself before God."
Kristofferson said he went with friends to the church service where he was moved by Larry Gatlin's song "Help Me (Lord)". He said that he had never thought of needing help, but he was at a low point in his life. When the pastor asked the congregation, "Is anybody feeling lost?" "Up goes my hand," Kristofferson says. The Pastor then asked, "Are you ready to accept Christ? Kneel down there." "I'm kneeling there," Kristofferson continues, "and I carry a big load of guilt around...and I was just out of control, crying. It was a release. It really shook me up." Kristofferson later said, "It was just a personal thing I was going through at the time. I had some kind of experience that I can't even explain."
Kristofferson met June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash in a hotel room in 1972 wanting to play them two songs he had written. Kristofferson had just attended a rough screening of a movie Johnny and June were heavily involved in entitled The Gospel Road. According to Johnny Cash's book Man in Black, Larry Gatlin sang a song called "Help Me" at the Evangel Temple, which inspired Kristofferson to write the song. Kristofferson also played Cash the song "Burden of Freedom," which was used in The Gospel Road.
Recognition and awards
"Why Me" was Kristofferson's lone major country hit as a solo recording artist, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart in July 1973. The song, despite peaking only at No. 16 of the Billboard Hot 100, had, at that time, one of the longer runs (19 weeks) in the top 40 and the most chart reversals (6) in one run on the Hot 100. Consequently, the song ranked sixth on the list of Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1973.
Other notable performances
Elvis Presley incorporated the song, titled as "Why Me Lord", into his live shows beginning in January 1974 up until his last concert tour. It was first released on the live album, Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis in June 1974. The recording is from his March 20, 1974 concert in Memphis, Tennessee. He often introduced the song for J.D. Sumner to sing "one of his favorite songs." Sumner would sing the verses and Elvis would join on the chorus along with the back-up singers. He also recorded the other side of the single, "Help Me", written by Larry Gatlin in December 1973 and which remained part of his live shows as well.
Carlene Davis recorded a version entitled "Why Me Lord" on her 1992 album "Jesus Is Only A Prayer Away".
Conway Twitty included a version on his 1994 album The Conway Twitty Collection.
Gospel artist CeCe Winans recorded a version of this song titled, "Why Me", on her 2017 album "Let Them Fall In Love".
- Malone, Bill, "Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection" (booklet included with Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection 4-disc set). Smithsonian Institution, 1990, p. 66-67.
- McClintock, Jack (March 1975). "Just a Good Ole Rhodes Scholar: Making it through the Night with Kris Kristofferson."". Playboy. 18 (9): 171–75.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 193.
- Whitburn, Joel, "The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits," 8th ed. Billboard Books, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, 2004.
-  Archived June 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 330. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Elvis: A Life In Music by Ernst Jorgensen
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
- "Kris Kristofferson - Why Me | Top 40". Top40.nl. 2013-06-18. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
- Canada, Library and Archives (July 8, 2017). "Image : RPM Weekly".