Why Me (Kris Kristofferson song)

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"Why Me"
Single by Kris Kristofferson
from the album Jesus Was a Capricorn
Released April 1973
Format 7"
Recorded July 8, 1972
Genre country, gospel
Length 3:26
Label Monument Records 31909
Writer(s) Kris Kristofferson
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Kris Kristofferson singles chronology
"Jesse Younger"
"Why Me"
"A Song I'd Like to Sing"

"Why Me" is an American country and gospel song written and recorded by American country music singer and songwriter Kris Kristofferson.

Song history[edit]

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," "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and many other songs. He had a hit of his own as well, with "Loving 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.[1] 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."[1]

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."[2]

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, "Gospel Road." According to Johnny Cash's book, "The 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, "Gospel Road."

Recognition and awards[edit]

"Why Me" was Kristofferson's lone major country hit as a solo recording artist, reaching No. 1 of Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart in July 1973.[3] The song, despite peaking only at No. 16 of the Billboard Hot 100, had, to that time, one of the longer runs (19 weeks) in the top 40[4] 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.

"Why Me" was certified gold for sales of one million units by the Recording Industry Association of America.[5][6]

Other notable performances[edit]

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.[7]

George Jones recorded a version for his 1974 album In a Gospel Way.

David Allan Coe also covered "Why Me", on his 1977 album Texas Moon.

British singer Cliff Richard recorded a version for his 1978 album Small Corners.

Merle Haggard recorded a version, released on the 1981 album What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

Johnny Cash also recorded a version of the song titled "Why Me Lord" on his 1994 album American Recordings.

Conway Twitty included a version on his 1994 album The Conway Twitty Collection.

Chicago punk band The Smoking Popes recorded a version of this song for their 2001 covers album The Party's Over.

David Crowder Band recorded a version for their final album, Give Us Rest, which was released in 2012.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1973) Peak
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 23
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1
Canadian RPM Top Singles[8] 19
Dutch Top 40[9] 31
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 16
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 28
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
Preceded by
"Don't Fight the Feelings of Love"
by Charley Pride
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single

July 7, 1973
Succeeded by
"Love Is the Foundation"
by Loretta Lynn
Preceded by
"Ravishing Ruby"
by Tom T. Hall
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single

July 14, 1973

Additional information[edit]

  • In addition to Kristofferson's hit (BMI Work #1670077), BMI lists over 190 songs with the title, "Why Me" or "Why Me Lord."[10]
  • A 2010 obituary for Minnesotan Albin Otto Marlyn Christianson noted, "Albin... played the organ and wrote many songs, one of which was published by Kris Kristopherson, “Why me, Lord.”[11]


  1. ^ a b 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.
  2. ^ McClintock, Jack (March 1975). "Just a Good Ole Rhodes Scholar: Making it through the Night with Kris Kristofferson."". Playboy 18 (9): 171–75. 
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 193. 
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel, "The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits," 8th ed. Billboard Books, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, 2004.
  5. ^ [1] Archived June 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 330. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  7. ^ Elvis: A Life In Music by Ernst Jorgensen
  8. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  9. ^ "Kris Kristofferson - Why Me | Top 40". Top40.nl. 2013-06-18. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  10. ^ ""Why Me" :search rsults". Repertoire.bmi.com. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  11. ^ "Albin Christainson, 85". Fergus Falls Journal. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]