Kris Kristofferson to Receive CMT Johnny Cash Visionary Award

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NASHVILLE — Kris Kristofferson, who has written some of country music’s most enduring hits, will receive CMT’s Johnny Cash Visionary Award, the cable network announced Monday.

Rosanne Cash, Cash’s daughter, will present the honor to the 70-year-old singer-songwriter during the April 16 awards show in Nashville. Previous recipients include Cash, Hank Williams Jr., Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire and the Dixie Chicks.

“John was my hero before he was my friend, and anything with his name on it is really an honor in my eyes,” Kristofferson said during a recent phone interview from Atlanta.

“I was thinking back to when I first met him, and if I ever thought that I’d be getting an award with his name on it, it would have carried me through a lot of hard times.”

In an e-mail, Rosanne Cash said of Kristofferson: “I love Kris fiercely, not just because he and my father are cut from the same spiritual cloth, and because he is the living artistic link to my dad, but because he is my ideal as a songwriter and a human being.”

“He and my dad were closer than brothers. They loved each other early, and it is so fitting that he receive this award named after dad,” she said.

Kristofferson said one of his greatest joys as a songwriter has been “seeing people who can transform the thing you made and make it bigger than it was.”

“I think the first time that ever came through to me is when Jerry Lee Lewis sang a song that Shel Silverstein and I wrote (“Once More With Feeling”). We were both amazed at what he had made it,” he said.

Kristofferson explored themes of isolation in “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (Cash) and “Help Me Make it Through the Night” (Sammi Smith), and evoked the restless spirit of the times in “Me and Bobby McGee” (Janis Joplin).

His later songs took a political tone, questioning U.S. policy in Central America and Iraq.

Willie Nelson, a friend who has recorded Kristofferson’s songs, said his “lyrics are literature whether you sing them or read them. They’re words to live by, and that’s about as much praise as you can say about any writer.”

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