Last night in Boston, T Bone presented his longtime friend Kris Kristofferson with the PEN-New England Song Lyrics Award for Literary Excellence, during an evening which also honored the great Randy Newman.
T Bone’s full remarks are as folllows:
Kris Kristofferson wrote that. In two lines, he tells the story of my life, mine and every other artist’s I know. Concrete and abstract at once. Life is a religious question, and Kris Kristofferson has written a Country and Western religion.
If I were asked to come up with a handful of names of whom I consider the best pure songwriters this country has produced, I would have to say that two of them are here in this room today. Going back, I would probably start with Hoagy Carmichael, and Cole Porter comes immediately to mind, and of course, we would have to include Bob Dylan.
But Randy Newman’s song “Sail Away” is as deft a use of true irony as our language has ever produced. No one has brought us more wit and heartbreaking perspective than Mr. Newman, and I want to thank him now for all he has given us over the last fifty (or so) years.
I have seen Kris Kristofferson play live maybe a hundred times. Seeing him in 1970, it was clear that he was an evolutionary step in country music, and no country writer since has surpassed his eloquence. He has written standards, and he has written songs of revolution.
He paints vivid pictures with plain words.
He is a cross between Hank Williams and Anton Chekhov.
His songs create conscience.
For evidence, I offer this lyric from “Here Comes that Rainbow Again”
I am grateful to be here today to give Kris this honor which he so richly deserves. No one has been more generous and encouraging to me, and I am happy to have this chance to let him know how deeply grateful I am to him, and how much he and his work have meant to me over the years.
God bless your very soul, Comrade.