The Frank Sinatra ‘Playboy’ Interview That Inspired Kris Kristofferson’s 1970 Hit “Help Me Make It Through the Night”

“I’m for anything that gets you through the night,” said Frank Sinatra in a 1963 interview with Playboy, “be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.” In the interview, Sinatra goes on to talk about religion and everyone was entitled to their own spiritual journey, but it was that one line that stuck with Kris Kristofferson. Before the lyrics were even written, Kristofferson already had the title for a new song thanks to the chairman of the board.

At the time, Kristofferson was working as a helicopter pilot while writing and allegedly hand-delivered another song “Sunday Morning Coming Down” to Johnny Cash by landing his copter on Cash’s property. Shortly after serving as a captain in the U.S. Army and earning a master’s degree at Oxford University,  Kristofferson turned down a higher rank in the military to pursue a career as a songwriter.

After moving to Nashville, Kristofferson lived in a run-down tenement and worked as a janitor for Columbia Records before taking a job as a pilot transporting passengers and supplies in from Louisiana to offshore petroleum facilities.

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[RELATED: The Hangover Song Kris Kristofferson Allegedly Delivered to Johnny Cash by Helicopter, “Sunday Morning Coming Down”]

Sexual Healing

Armed with another title for a song, “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” Kristofferson began writing the song one evening while waiting in his helicopter. The song is told from the perspective of a man who isn’t looking for alcohol, drugs or any of Sinatra’s aforementioned spiritual direction or vices to get through the night. Instead, he just wants the company of a woman.

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 wron

The lyrics imply something more illicit in the affair—Let the devil take tomorrow—but it’s better than being alone.

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

Released on Kristofferson’s 1970 debut Kristofferson, “Help Me Make It Through the Night” was covered that year by Sammi Smith, on her No. 1 country album of the same name, and topped the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

Since its release, Kristofferson’s lonesome tale was covered nearly 500 times by Cash, Elvis Presley, Tammy Wynette, Joan Baez, Glen Campbell, Percy Sledge, Loretta Lynn, Jerry Lee Lewis, Glady Knight, Willie Nelson, and Peggy Lee, among many others.

Photo: Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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