Friday Five: Kris Kristofferson Covers

Juli Thanki | June 22nd, 2012

Treat yourself to a slice of birthday cake, because Kris Kristofferson turns 76 today. Countless country, bluegrass, and roots singers have covered his songs, but the living legend’s lyrical mastery transcends genre. So, for today’s Friday Five, here are five non-country covers of his songs.

5. Street Dogs – “The Pilgrim: Chapter 33”

This Boston band, helmed by former Dropkick Murphys frontman Mike McColgan, delivered this punky cover on their 2003 debut, Savin Hill.


4. Gladys Knight – “Help Me Make It Through the Night”

It would have to be a pretty strong man to resist this plea from Knight.


3. Ray Charles and Johnny Cash – “Why Me, Lord?”

This version of the song, from Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters, is a moving, soulful duet between two of music’s most legendary voices.


2. Al Green – “For the Good Times”

If childbirth rates increased in July 1973, it was probably due to this recording on Green’s ’72 album, I’m Still in Love with You.


1. Janis Joplin – “Me and Bobby McGee”

Roger Miller recorded it first (and his excellent version topped out at #12 on the country charts), but Joplin delivers the definitive version of “Me and Bobby McGee,” which was recorded shortly before her death and would go on to top the charts.

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  1. Arlene
    June 22, 2012 at 9:53 am

    From time to time, friends or fellow discussion board members and I exchange lists of the best covers of all time. For me, the Hendrix cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” is always #1 but Janis’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee” almost always comes in as my #2.

  2. Adam Sheets
    June 22, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I would have added Waylon’s version of “Casey’s Last Ride,” but can’t really argue with anything here.

  3. timeo
    June 22, 2012 at 11:49 am

    A great non-country Kristofferson cover is Carly Simon’s “I’ve Got to Have You.” ( And, it’s hard to resist the faux-punk version of Sunday Morning Coming Down by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (

    I’m not sure I’d call the Charles/Cash duet a noncountry cover. At that point, Charles was marketing himself to country radio and audiences.

  4. nm
    June 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Oh, Timeo, thanks for posting that link.

  5. Rick
    June 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Non-country versions? Crikey mate!

  6. Barry Mazor
    June 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Could we get something straight?

    This constant “crikey mate” thing, Rick. Are you somes orta furriner?

    American minds possibly want to know. Or maybe not.

  7. luckyoldsun
    June 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    When FAS fits the category, count on it being in the top 5!

  8. Rick
    June 22, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Barry, you should have recognized by now that I hail from a foreign….planet! (lol)

  9. Paul W Dennis
    June 22, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    I was always partial to Roy Drusky’s excellent recording of “Jody and The Kid” – I’m sure someone must have done a pop cover of the song, but I can’t think of one.

    I really do like Shawn Mullins’ version of “Sunday Morning Coming Down” – in fact I prefer it to the Johnny Cash rendition

    I have always hated the Joplin recording of “Me and Bobby McGee”. At the time I thought she murdered the song. Forty years later I still think so

  10. luckyoldsun
    June 22, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Well, given that they’re still playing it today, the song seems to have survived the “assault”.

  11. Ben Foster
    June 22, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Rick… That explains so much!

  12. Jon
    June 22, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Ray Charles+Johnny Cash=non-country? Does this mean that Juli’s not part of the let’s-put-Ray-Charles-in-thteCMHOF crowd?

    Roger Miller or Janis Joplin, I never cared much for the song. Give me “Darby’s Castle.”

    • Juli Thanki
      June 24, 2012 at 8:37 am

      I love me some Ray. Both volumes of Modern Sounds in C&W Music are in my personal top 20 albums of all time list. I just think this one song, even with Johnny Cash’s presence, owes more to R&B than his country stuff. Splitting hairs? Probably. But I liked the recording too much to keep it out.

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