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However, Kristofferson is forced to take a lucrative job flying helicopters for oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico to pay for his son's medical bills resulting from a defective oesophagus.

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But he's never abandoned music, the only avenue that has allowed him the freedom to express the full range of emotions he feels for a country and culture he loves dearly, but often openly challenges.Kristofferson's latest album, Closer To The Bone, is another moving testament to that pursuit of freedom at the heart of his best work.Everybody was hanging out every night listening to each other's stuff.It was like a rebirth." 1966 to 1968 Now firmly committed to establishing himself in Nashville, Kristofferson even works as a janitor at Columbia Studios to stay close to the action."I didn't think songwriting was something worthy of devoting your life to until I went to Nashville after I'd been in the army," he says.

"It was so exciting and creatively stimulating to me being around all of the serious songwriters there.

Although the single flops, Kristofferson remains undeterred.

"I think I would have probably drunk myself to death if I hadn't got into something creative," he says. It seemed at the time to my parents and my peers that I'd lost my mind. But it was so exciting to me even though it was hard on my family." Kristofferson's songs start catching on in 1968 after Roy Drusky has a Top 30 hit with "Jody and the Kid." Over the next year, many others including Jerry Lee Lewis, Faron Young, and Roger Miller reach the country charts with Kristofferson compositions.

He is present at the sessions for Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde but is too intimidated to do anything other than observe.

He also watches Johnny Cash record, and despite strict orders not to engage the artists, Kristofferson gives demos to June Carter in hopes that she'll pass them on to Cash.

Blake's complete dedication to his art has a profound effect on Kristofferson.