Matt Sayles / The Associated Press

Kris Kristofferson performs at the 56th annual Grammy Awards on Jan. 26. He’ll be in Sacramento on Saturday.

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Kris Kristofferson headlines Hemp Aide at the Crest

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 - 7:11 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 - 8:36 pm

“I’m not a good interview,” Kris Kristofferson said near the end of a 20-minute conversation about his career, now in its sixth decade, as a songwriter, musician and actor.

Asked about his supporting role in the 2013 indie film “The Motel Life,” Kristofferson drew a blank.

“I’m doing the best I can,” the 77-year-old Brownsville, Texas, native said, his cigarettes-and-whiskey voice thickened and weathered by age. “The brain damage from the boxing and football I did early on has finally caught up with me.”

Perhaps the only artist who has worked with both country music legend Johnny Cash and trash-cinema drag queen Divine, Kristofferson will headline Hemp Aide on Saturday night at the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento.

Hemp Aide is presented by the California State Grange and Hempstead Project Heart to raise awareness for industrial hemp, a versatile crop that’s illegal in the United States.

A three-time Grammy winner who wrote hit songs like “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” Kristofferson spoke with The Bee from his Southern California home.

Why are you headlining Hemp Aide?

My friend (Sacramento activist and poet) John Trudell is running Hempstead Project Heart. Keeping hemp illegal is an ignorant law that’s been imposed irrationally. It’s one of the stupider things that our nation can be proud of. Hemp can benefit a lot of farmers. It can benefit the economy. It can feed people. If the world was using hemp instead of petroleum and plastics and whatnot, we would not be the only living creature that kills itself.

Do you foresee hemp becoming legal in America?

By the time I’m gone, it’ll be legal and the world will be better for it. I can’t think that we’ll stay stupid that long. Many people confuse hemp and marijuana. Hemp doesn’t get a person high like marijuana does. How do you feel about marijuana legalization? I completely believe it ought to be legal. Why is alcohol legal?

What’s in store for Saturday night?

I will do a couple hours of my life’s work. It’s something that still works and I’m still proud of it. But my wife carries my lyrics in case I need ’em.

You appeared to have had some trouble playing guitar in your recent performance at the Grammys. Was something wrong?

That’s what I mean about my brain will not go on forever. The Grammy thing wasn’t my regular show. The surroundings were unfamiliar. It caught me up. I haven’t got the brain I used to.

You’re playing 20 dates in Australia throughout April. Why?

Australia reminds me of where I grew up in Brownsville, Texas. I’ve played there before and it’s always gone over well. It’s still kind of rural. The people are just very down home, very honest. I just like ’em.

You co-starred with Barbra Streisand in “A Star Is Born” and with Divine, in male drag, in “Trouble in Mind.” You’ve performed in the superband The Highwaymen with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. What’s your best talent?

I never thought I was a good enough singer to be a country singer. I’d rather hear Ray Charles or Hank Williams, somebody who really is a singer. I think I’m a good songwriter. I’m still writing but a lot slower than I used to. I just finished one that I think is one of my best. I’m going out slowly but surely.

What’s your contribution to music?

I think songs, once they are created by the songwriter, don’t belong to them anymore. I think Janis Joplin owns “Bobby McGee” as much as I do. She’s the one who made it heard and made it famous.

Who’s your hero?

Johnny Cash was a major figure in my life. I probably wouldn’t have left the Army if I hadn’t shaken hands with Johnny Cash backstage at the Grand Ole Opry when I was still in uniform. The first song he did of mine was “To Beat the Devil.” Then he did “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and he made me a hero. I never had to work again.

Read more articles by Ed Murrieta

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