Kris Kristofferson Tells the Story Behind the First “Whole Song” He Ever Wrote at Age 11, “I Hate Your Ugly Face”

It was 1947 when Kris Kristofferson wrote his first full song. At just 11 years old, Kristofferson was already a natural-born scribe of heartbreak. “I Hate Your Ugly Face” was soaked in heartache, tears—and beer. “Here’s the first whole song I ever wrote,” says Kris Kristofferson at the beginning of the song, which he released nearly 60 years later. “Eleven years old and well on my way.”

Within its verses, the young Kristofferson sings about a love lost and not crying in his beer. “Well, I’m sure that I wasn’t talking on personal experience,” laughed Kristofferson of his pre-teen ballad.

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Girls and Beer?

Released as a hidden track on Kristoffersn’s 20th album Closer to the Bone from 2009, “I Hate Your Ugly Face” was a song that came purely from his imagination at 11.

“I didn’t know anything about drinking beer or fooling around with girls at the time,” said Kristofferson of the song in 2010. “I was just using my imagination there.”

You heard a lot of singers moaning of the love they lost
But they’re always true to their long-lost dear, no matter what the cost
I want you to hear I ain’t crying in my beer
This is how it goes with me
The happiest day of my unhappy life
Was when you set me free

I hate your ugly face
I see it every place
It follows me wherever I try to go
Your skin is tanned like leather
And it looks just like a heifer’s
Oh, I hate you dear and I think you ought to know

“It was probably the first song I remember making up,” added Kristofferson. “I’m sure I made it up when I lived in Brownsville, Texas. I never did record it, and I think they didn’t want to put that title on that album [‘Closer to the Bone’], but my family liked it.”

‘Closer to the Bone’

Produced by Don Was, Closer to the Bone was a contemplative collection of 11 stripped-down songs written by Kristofferson on aging, love, and loss. “I Hate Your Ugly Face” is not featured on the tracklist and starts 10 seconds after the closing Closer to the Bone track “The Wonder.”

At the time, Kristofferson said that New West Records president Cameron Strang had second thoughts about putting the song on the album.

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“He thought maybe we shouldn’t put that on there, and it’s true,” revealed Kristofferson. “I wrote that or made it up. I didn’t write it down back when I was raking the horse manure down in Brownsville, Texas. And I was 11 years old. And I’m sure I didn’t know what a beer was, but ‘cryin’ in your beer’ was an expression.”

Kristofferson added, “I like [the song] to this day, but it was a long time after that before I made it as a songwriter. My favorite line was, ‘A lot of singers wish their sweethearts happiness / I just hope you’re miserable, you sorry looking mess.’ That may be one of the best that I’ve ever written.”

Photo: Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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