Country singer Kristofferson looks to end of road

Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:27am EST
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By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - Kris Kristofferson -- Oxford scholar, athlete, U.S. Army helicopter pilot, country music composer, one-time roustabout, film actor, singer, lover of women, three times a husband and father of eight -- seems ready to meet his maker.

At least, that was the clear impression he left with an audience of middle-aged-and-upwards fans at a concert in Geneva this week, a message underscored by his 28th and latest album, "Feeling Mortal" and its coffin-dark cover.

At a frail-looking 76, his ample beard more straggly than ever and his always gravel-laden voice gasping out the familiar lyrics of his great classics from "Bobby McGee" to "Rainbow Again", the hereafter appears at the front of his mind.

"I've begun to soon descend, like the sun into the sea," runs the title song of the new CD.

On the stage without backing group in Geneva, the first leg of a solo European tour to promote the disc from his own record company, "God" trips off his lips like a punctuation mark.

Even the old songs that made him -- as well as other country artists like Willy Nelson, Johnny Cash, and his one-time girl-friend Janis Joplin -- internationally famous, sound shaped by the fading voice to underscore a spiritual dimension.

"Sunday Morning Coming Down" emerges less as an ode to elderly loners facing old age without family and children and more as a call to prepare for the next life.

Religiosity was never that far from Kristofferson, son of a major-general in the U.S. Air Force, grandson of a Swedish army officer and in the 1ate 1950s a Rhodes Scholar in English Literature at England's Oxford University.   Continued...

Kris Kristofferson (L) and Joel Rafael embraces each other after performing together during the Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration Concert in Los Angeles, California, April 14, 2012. REUTERS/Bret Hartman