"Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revealed!

Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:42 am

"Why Me, Lord" and "Help Me" were great favorites of Elvis' on the concert stage, starting in January 1974.

But how many Presley fans know the gorgeous, original, "Why Me," by singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson?


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Kris Kristofferson - "Why Me" b/w "Help Me" (Monument 8571, Mar '73)


Kris scored a huge hit in 1973 (#16 Pop, #1 Country) with "Why Me," his Monument 45 hanging on the pop charts for 38 weeks. The B-side was "Help Me," written by Larry Gatlin, Kris' first-ever cover.

This single should probably be called the most influential on Elvis in his last years, as both sides became mainstays in his set list until the end, especially "Help Me." Obviously, these tracks were very close to our hero's innermost feelings. Whereas the Kristofferson hit for Sammi Smith, "Help Me Make It Through The Night," appeared on many 1973 play lists, it's clear these two other Kristofferson numbers took their place the following year, starting with Presley's 1974 January-February engagement at the Las Vegas Hilton.

"Why Me" had crossover appeal, and it was the first song to be nominated for major Country and Gospel awards:


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Billboard - Oct 13, 1973


Both "Why Me" and "Help Me" debuted on Kris' fourth LP in November 1972.
Jesus Was a Capricorn would stay on the pop album charts for 42 weeks!
Notice all the Elvis-connected musicians!!


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Jesus Was a Capricorn (Monument KZ-31909, 1972)

Side One
1. "Jesus Was a Capricorn (Owed to John Prine)"
2. "Nobody Wins"
3. "It Sure Was (Love)"
4. "Enough for You"
5. "Help Me" [Larry Gatlin]

Side Two
1. "Jesse Younger"
2. "Give It Time to Be Tender" [Kristofferson, Donnie Fritts]
3. "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" [Kristofferson, Stephen Bruton]
4. "Sugar Man"
5. "Why Me"

Produced by Fred Foster and Dennis Linde

Drums: Andy Newmark, Kenny Buttrey
Guitar: Chip Young, Dennis Linde, Fred Carter Jr, Grady Martin, Jerry Shook, James Colvard, John Buck Wilkin, John L Christopher Jr, Mac Gayden, Stephen Bruton
Bass: Norbert Putnam, Tommy Cogbill
Dobro: "Uncle Josh" Graves
Steel guitar: Weldon Myrick
Piano: Bobby Emmons, Bobby Wood, David Briggs, Dr. John Harris, Mike Utley
Strings: Brenton Banks, Byron T Bach, Carl Gorodetzky, David Darling, George Binkley III, Lillian Hunt, Sheldon Kurland, Steven Smith


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How much you want to bet Elvis had a copy of the single, or album?
Last edited by drjohncarpenter on Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:47 am

I'll bet he did. Might have run across it by chance, but I can guess for sure it would resonate with him enough to want to hear it again and again.

Saw Kristofferson perform this live ... ummm ... a few years ago, three or five, maybe?

I liked his concert rendition of it better than his original recording.

Honestly, I always liked Elvis' take on it better, but hearing Kristofferson parched take on it recently, I really liked it more than I would have guessed.

My favorite Kristofferson performance was in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," but he's written some great songs along the way.
Last edited by elvissessions on Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:57 am, edited 2 times in total.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:52 am

A most unusual man.

Take a gander at his life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kris_Kristofferson

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:53 am

He's part of one of my favorite Dylan tales -- a bit part, I suppose, in the recording of Lay Lady Lay. ... janitor in the studio, for crying out loud.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:55 am

Versions by Johnny Cash - close friend of Kris Kristofferson - feature one each on two of his American albums:

Amercian Recordings (1994) - Why Me, Lord?
American 5: A Hundred Highways (2006 - recorded 2003) - Help Me

Cash's version of "Help Me" carries an added weight coming so close to the end of his life in addition to the alternate lyric presentation of:

"With a humbled heart, on bended knee, I'm begging you please.. for help"

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:56 am

Not at all a fan of Kristofferson as a singer, but I enjoyed the topic nonetheless.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:59 am

Yes, and don't forget he loved "For the good times".

And its rumored that he rehearsed, "Loving her was easier", and "Sunday morning coming down" .

Kris was one of those country artists like others, that he listened to during the 70's.

To me though, Kris is like Dylan, in that he was a genious song writer, but as a singer, really tries my patience.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:59 am

Great post Doc!!!
Kris is great. His first album is a classic.

Here is great version of "Why Me (Lord)" performed by him with Highwaymen in Nassau Coliseum in 1992.

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It's from DVD "Highwaymen Live!" every music fan should see it. Great stuff.
One of my favourite shows.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:20 am

Kristofferson ,and his song writing talents are very appealing to me

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:28 am

Willie Nelson said one time that

"Kris must have lived 1000 other times and in 1000 other places, cause he is able to describe all this things so deeply that it makes his one of the best writiers of out time"...


or something like that :)

I think it is on thet "Highwaymen Live!" DVD also.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:35 am

Thank you very much for this thread, Doc!

I'm a huge Kristofferson fan and every time I listen to his albums I wonder why Elvis didn't record more of his wonderful songs. I think he really could have nailed them if he wanted to. And some songs really fitted well for Elvis, especially songs like "Nobody Wins".

@Matthew, don't forget Cash's Cover of "Just The Other Side Of Nowhere" on the marvellous "Unearthed"- Box Set.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:45 am

Kris kristofferson's original of ''Why me'' is better than Elvis' cover version.

I would have liked to have heard Elvis sing it all by himself instead of letting JD Sumner.

Elvis might of known ''Help me'' from Kristofferson's version, but he could have heard Larry Gaitlin singing it.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:18 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:"Why Me, Lord" and "Help Me" were great favorites of Elvis' on the concert stage, starting in January 1974.
But how many Presley fans know the gorgeous, original, "Why Me," by singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson?

I don't particulary like any of those two songs, actually, I always skip them... but I do like "For The Good Times," specially the studio version (as released on "Walk A MIle In My Shoes")
I heard an audio interview where Kristofferson didn't know (or probably forgot!) Elvis recorded "Why Me, Lord?" until the interviewer played it for him... I wonder how that happened, asuming he must receive royalties or something for that recording... :roll:

You can hear the interview HERE

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:31 am

Elvis might of known ''Help me'' from Kristofferson's version, but he could have heard Larry Gaitlin singing it.


Ummm... on the album "Jesus Was A Capricorn" Kris sings "Help Me" in an duet with Larry Gatlin.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:46 am

Kris Kristofferson is a dull singer but a great songwriter. As for "Why Me", Elvis' version is a disgrace but guys like George Jones and Charlie Rich have recorded beautiful and respectful versions of the song. Miles better than both the original and the Elvis and JD duet disaster.

Elvis did a great job on "Help Me", though.

Keith Richards, Jr.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:09 am

luckyjackson1 wrote:
Elvis might of known ''Help me'' from Kristofferson's version, but he could have heard Larry Gaitlin singing it.


Ummm... on the album "Jesus Was A Capricorn" Kris sings "Help Me" in an duet with Larry Gatlin.


oops i worded that wrong

I was talking about Gaitlin's original that he sang by himself.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:18 am

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Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:19 am

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Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:44 pm

To me, Elvis' version as recorded live in Memphis 1974 is just fine. I like the different approach and in no way would describe it as a disaster.
That said, it is great to hear the original. Thanks for that, doc.

The versions as recorded by Johnny Cash are worth noting too!

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 5:59 pm

brian wrote:Kris kristofferson's original of ''Why me'' is better than Elvis' cover version.

I would have liked to have heard Elvis sing it all by himself instead of letting JD Sumner.

Elvis might of known ''Help me'' from Kristofferson's version, but he could have heard Larry Gaitlin singing it.


Elvis only sang the song once by himself, without JD.

Its available as an audience recording and is a pretty good rendition.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 7:24 pm

Please post Elvis' solo version!


As for Kristofferson, he is one hell of a performer. He is a humble man with a great respect of his audience and a pleasure to listen to. He's been touring Sweden a few times recently and always alone with just a guitar.

Honest, real and beautiful renditions of his songs. A man you should see live if you get the chance.

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:12 pm

Rockin_John wrote:Please post Elvis' solo version!


As for Kristofferson, he is one hell of a performer. He is a humble man with a great respect of his audience and a pleasure to listen to. He's been touring Sweden a few times recently and always alone with just a guitar.

Honest, real and beautiful renditions of his songs. A man you should see live if you get the chance.


I'll second that. Saw him in Manchester a few weeks ago. Truly an uplifting experience.

BTW Elvis' solo version is a terrible audience recording.

Geoff

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:14 pm

Rockin_John wrote:Please post Elvis' solo version!


As for Kristofferson, he is one hell of a performer. He is a humble man with a great respect of his audience and a pleasure to listen to. He's been touring Sweden a few times recently and always alone with just a guitar.

Honest, real and beautiful renditions of his songs. A man you should see live if you get the chance.

Right on. I met Kris once, he's a tiny guy, but as kind as any star I've ever said hello to.

As for "Why Me," Elvis went on his own with this classic, for once, on July 22, 1975, in Asheville, NC.

Anyone have a sound file?

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:24 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Rockin_John wrote:Please post Elvis' solo version!


As for Kristofferson, he is one hell of a performer. He is a humble man with a great respect of his audience and a pleasure to listen to. He's been touring Sweden a few times recently and always alone with just a guitar.

Honest, real and beautiful renditions of his songs. A man you should see live if you get the chance.

Right on. I met Kris once, he's a tiny guy, but as kind as any star I've ever said hello to.

As for "Why Me," Elvis went on his own with this classic, for once, on July 22, 1975, in Asheville, NC.

Anyone have a sound file?


How tiny is he?

Re: "Why Me" --> Kristofferson's Understated Influence Revea

Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:35 pm

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Almost listenable. I hope this turns up on a SB one day

Geoff