Behind The Meaning of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make it Through the Night”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

“Help Me Make It Through The Night” appears on Kristofferson’s 1970 self-titled album. Like many of Kristofferson’s biggest offerings, this track garnered success for multiple artists, including Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, and more.

Despite its recurring hit status, the song was met with a fair share of controversy upon its initial release due to racy lyrics. Find out the history and meaning behind this scandalous Kristofferson track, below.

[RELATED: 5 Songs You Didn’t Know Kris Kristofferson Wrote for Other Artists, First]

Behind The Meaning

Kristofferson credits a Frank Sinatra interview for inspiring “Help Me Make It Through The Night.”

In a conversation with Esquire, Sinatra was asked what he believed in. The pragmatic crooner quickly replied, “Booze, broads, or a bible…whatever helps me make it through the night.”

The quote seemed to sit heavily with Kristofferson, eventually becoming the jumping-off point for this 1970 release.

He wrote this song during a time when he was still struggling to make it in the industry. Around the same time, he was staying with a fellow country artist Dottie West and her husband, Bill.

Kristofferson offered the song to West, who originally rejected it due to it being “too suggestive.” She eventually did record it after several other artists had released their own versions. West once confessed that not recording this song first was one of the greatest regrets of her career.

Controversial Lyrics

Kristofferson’s lyrics were deemed “too provocative” upon its release. The lyrics tell the story of a man yearning for sexual intimacy. With each release of the song—especially the version recorded by women—the public deemed the song deeply controversial.

One of the first to record the song, Sammi Smith, once said she appreciated the frankness of the song and didn’t see anything scandalous or provocative about the track. “Help Me Make It Through The Night” remains Smith’s biggest hit to date.

[RELATED: The 30 Best Kris Kristofferson Quotes]

Kristofferson details an intimate night across this track, dwelling on each moment with painstaking detail. Find a selection of the lyrics below and attempt to read between the lines.

Take the ribbon from your hair
Shake it loose and let it fall
Layin’ soft upon my skin
Like the shadows on the wall
Come and lay down by my side
Till the early mornin’ light
All I’m takin’ is your time
Help me make it through the night
I don’t care who’s right or wrong
I don’t try to understand
Let the devil take tomorrow
Lord tonight I need a friend
Yesterday is dead and gone
And tomorrow’s out of sight
And it’s sad to be alone

Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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