By the 1970s Kris Kristofferson was one of the biggest names in Nashville and country music in general. Like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and other country singers, the "Me and Bobby McGee" singer-songwriter was known for his rough ways and party lifestyle. But it was this classic country gospel song that would become the biggest hit of his career. "Why Me Lord" or "Why Me" as it's sometimes called was written by Kristofferson during a low period in his life, after he attended a religious service conducted by the Rev. Jimmie Rogers Snow.
With backing vocals from Kristofferson's soon-to-be wife Rita Coolidge and Larry Gatlin, "Why Me Lord" was actually inspired by Larry Gatlin's song "Help Me Lord". The song was considered perfect to be sung by Kristofferson, as it was about a man who'd gone out and lived life but was now ready to humble himself before Jesus.
It was Gatlin's song and the church service Kristofferson attended that inspired him to write the song. As Kristofferson explained that the pastor asked, "Is anybody feeling lost?" "Up goes my hand," Kristofferson said. The pastor followed up by asking if Kristofferson was ready to accept Christ into his life. "I'm kneeling there," Kristofferson continued, "and I carry a big load of guilt around...and I was just out of control, crying. It was a release. It really shook me up." Kristofferson called the whole thing a profound religious experience.
"Why Me Lord" was such a beloved hit that it has been covered by dozens of country singers. Absolute legends. Just look at this list: Connie Smith, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, George Jones, David Allan Coe, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty and Elvis Presley.
The song reached Number 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles list (the only solo number one of his career). It hit number 16 on the Billboard charts overall. "Why Me" was also a certified gold record.
We have to say, God has inspired a lot of amazing things -- and we're glad this song was one of them.