When was the last time you were homeless? How long do you think that feeling of loss and loneliness stays with a person? That astonishing sense of sheer lack – of walking down endless streets and peering through windows warmed by light and life, wondering when you’ll find your home, wondering what it’s like to be able to finally rest without feeling an inevitable hole for days because there is no hearth or home for you. Conversely, how does one keep from hardening one’s heart against the plight of the less fortunate when it seems although their problems never end?
To this end, Grammy-winning Kris Kristofferson joins with House Farm Workers! (HFW), for a concert to benefit local farm workers who have no home in which to lay their collective hats (and heads). the “Have a Heart for Farm Workers” benefit concert at the Ventura Theater. At the event, there will be a farmers market-style dinner, silent auction and music by jarocho trio El Son del Pueblo in the theater lobby. (Jarocho is a type of folk music found most easily in Veracruz, Mexico.)
House Farm Workers!, a project of the Ventura County Ag Futures Alliance (AFA) Farm Worker Housing Task Force, was founded in 2004 to address the lack of decent housing for farm workers. Remember those decrepit, one-room shotgun shacks across the Pacific Coast Highway from the Point Mugu Air Station, directly behind the dive bar with the neon rocket? Those are precisely what the HFW tries to prevent — and all the despair and cold and silence that those shacks implied. Since they started, the organization has spurred the development of over 350 farm worker housing units in Camarillo, Fillmore, Oxnard, Santa Paula, Ventura and soon Thousand Oaks.
In addition to winning multiple Grammys and earning the distinction of Rhodes Scholar, Kris Kristofferson wrote, along with Monument Records founder Fred Foster, “Me and Bobby McGee.” That should bring immortality enough; it’s one of the most covered songs in the lexicon, right up there behind “Happy Birthday” and “I Don’t Know but I’ve Been Told Eskimo Pee Is Mighty Cold.”
Kristofferson began his songwriting career as a U.S. Army captain and chopper pilot in West Germany in the early 1960s. Back in the States, working as a janitor, he witnessed Johnny Cash’s most fertile period of singing and songwriting and he observed Bob Dylan record “Blonde on Blonde.” Flying choppers from oil rig to oil rig off Louisiana, Kristofferson wrote songs on platforms high atop raging seas until those songs he pitched to Nashville were covered by artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Patti Page and Janis Joplin. From there, it was a nuclear-powered slingshot of a thrill-ride to the top: He was introduced by Cash at the Newport Folk Festival. Then there were confrontational moments at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, when he was on the same bill as Jimi Hendrix (shortly before Hendrix’s death).
Onward to acting. He played the doomed alpha male outlaw in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and the doomed alpha male actor opposite Barbara Streisand in A Star is Born. Throughout all of this, at the height of his creative powers, he played Han Solo in the Star Wars skit on the Donny & Marie Show in 1977. And then (whoops) he starred as the doomed alpha male sheriff protecting desperate Slavic immigrants in Heaven’s Gate, a film that annihilated the United Artists Corporation with its profligate budget and abysmal box office results. Regardless, as the sheriff in John Sayles’ Lone Star, his acting career blossomed yet again and he took on the role of the lovably lethal vampire-killer Whistler in the Blade series of horror films.
Flash forward to March of last year and the release of Kristofferson’s latest album, This Old Road, a Don Was-produced retrospective of introspection about things like progress, change and honor (most of which hold new weight and meaning for the concert taking place on Feb. 16). Have a Heart for Farm Workers is a benefit that will remind everyone – from the lowest busboy to Kristofferson himself – that any of us, either by grace or accident, could be homeless.