I was talking one day to a friend who walks around with a lot younger bones than I do. I mentioned the name Kris Kristofferson and he said 'Oh yeah, the actor.'

Uh, well....OK.

Tis true, Kris has been in a bunch of movies over the years. But I explained to my pal something else about Kris Kristofferson.

He's the greatest songwriter I've ever heard (or read).

Country Music's Creative Songwriter: Shel Silverstein

I was in high school when I got my first Kristofferson album. To this day, I'm not exactly sure how I got it, or why. This was the early 70's (the very early 70's). My favorite band at the time (and still one of my favorites) was Creedence Clearwater Revival. And truth be told, I pretty much liked what most of my friends liked, Three Dog Night, the Grass Roots, and introduction to a new band called Led Zeppelin, and whatever else was hot at the time on pop/rock radio.

And then I got the first Kristofferson album and was absolutely blown away. The album had songs that he had written on it that have now become legendary songs. 'Help Me Make It Through The Night'. 'For The Good Times'. 'Sunday Morning Comin' Down'. 'Me and Bobby McGee'. The crazy thing was, they weren't even the best songs on the album!

And it was from that first album, that first time I listened to what Kris Kristofferson was writing and saying, that I began to do some writing myself. Crude, silly, a lot of times making absolutely no sense at all but...I was writing. It was from that first album (and pretty much all the Kris albums over the next 10 years or so) that I would gain inspiration and sit in wonder about how he did it. Not just a great line in a song (And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad, so I had one more for dessert), but great line after line after line.

I was 16 when I first had something published. A close 14 year-old friend of mine, a neighbor, had died. It shook the very foundation of an entire community. It was perhaps the first time in my life I unashamedly cried, along with everyone else. And I wrote a poem for him, for me.

Dear Mom and Dad, please shed no tears

Tell the other's not to cry

I'm sorry I had to leave so soon

Before I could say goodbye

That's how it began, simple and perhaps clumsy, but it came from a 16 year-old heart and it was published in the Edgerton Enterprise, our local weekly paper. And, in it's little way, it touched people.

And I discovered that's what writing is all about. Touching people.

Since that long ago time, I've written a lot, most of which, as they say, will never see the light of day. But there have been some things. I write songs with a very talented musician, singer and writer I met a million years ago (well, maybe not a million, but quite a while back) named Terry Pospisil. I'm the word guy, he's the music (and word) guy and he's recorded a handful of things we've done.

I wrote a one man play 'Confessions Of An Ordinary Man' that I've performed about a hundred times around the region. I've written short form and long form and many times, no form at all.

And I can honestly trace it all back to the early 1970's, and an album by a guy named Kristofferson, a guy who's celebrating his 81st birthday on June 22, 2017.

Happy Birthday Kris, and thanks for the incredible gift you gave me.

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