Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Oct. 21, 2008)


Kris keeps it simple


  By John Martin

It wasn't that long ago the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) was a handy resource many of us kept in our tool kit. There was something reassuringly effective about basic simplicity and avoiding the need to unnecessarily complicate things. It was a fundamental guiding principle in marketing, teaching and communicating. But the notion of KISS has become a lost art form at best, and at worst, a social pariah. Simplicity has become most passe and elaborate complexity appears to rule the day.

The last time I was in a Starbucks the person in front of me ordered a double-mint, mocha-chip, blended frappuccino with whipped cream.

I recently scoured the martini menu in a bar. The 99 offerings included an apricot-mango martini and the best selling rum-tango martini cocktail. Nowhere on the list was there anything even resembling a medium-dry vodka martini. James Bond would have set the place ablaze.

Most action adventure films are now completely reliant on computer generated special effects.  Many live bands use so many technical effects and backing tracks that the rhythm section could stay home most nights and no one would notice.

So in this labyrinth of complexity it was such a relief to experience simplicity at its finest. I had the good fortune to catch Kris Kristofferson's performance in Victoria a week ago. It was just Kris; all 72 years of him, a guitar and a couple harmonicas. The stage set consisted of a microphone and a small area carpet.

Singer, songwriter, actor and one time U.S. Air Force major general, Kristofferson has few equals in the music business. He wrote "Me and Bobby McGee," "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and "Help Me Make It Through The Night." In the 80s he collaborated with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash to form the supergroup, The Highwaymen. At a time when country music was spiraling downward with all the musical integrity of a lip-synching boy band, The Highwaymen kept the flame burning.

Having the opportunity to see him solo was a purist's dream. For two hours he gave us 30 or so of his classics. Nothing fancy at all--sometimes he strummed three basic chords. Other times he sang over simple fingerpicking patterns. There were a few forgotten lyrics and on one occasion he selected the wrong harmonica.

But it was that stripped down, bare bones simplicity that made the evening so special. In a complex world where even filling out one's income tax form is a nightmare, there was something reassuring about one man's ability to thoroughly entertain without glitz, electronics, choreography or any other distractions. Clearly, there's still a market for something simple, pure and refreshingly honest.

One of the wonderful things about music is its capacity to inspire us.

If there's anything more inspiring than listening to Kris Kristofferson tell the story of "Me and Bobby McGee," I certainly have yet to come across it.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2008