About The Song


“To Beat the Devil” is a song by Kris Kristofferson, a seminal figure in the world of country music and songwriting. Released in 1970 as part of his debut album “Kristofferson,” the song stands as a testament to Kristofferson’s profound lyrical ability and his skill in blending storytelling with music. Kristofferson, known for his poetic approach to songwriting, drew from his own experiences and observations, embedding personal and philosophical reflections in his work. The song “To Beat the Devil” was inspired by Kristofferson’s own struggles as an aspiring songwriter in Nashville. It tells the story of an encounter with an old man in a bar, representing the devil, who challenges the protagonist’s resolve and beliefs. The song’s narrative structure and philosophical undertones made it a standout track in Kristofferson’s early career, helping to establish him as a significant voice in country music.

Musical Style

Musically, “To Beat the Devil” is rooted in the folk and country traditions that characterized much of Kristofferson’s work. The song features a simple yet effective arrangement, with acoustic guitar as the primary instrument, complemented by subtle harmonica and bass. This minimalist approach allows the focus to remain on the lyrics and Kristofferson’s vocal delivery. Kristofferson’s voice is raw and expressive, perfectly suited to the song’s introspective and reflective nature. His vocal style, often described as more conversational than traditionally melodic, adds to the authenticity and emotional weight of the song. The production of the track is straightforward, eschewing elaborate instrumentation in favor of a more stripped-down, intimate sound that highlights the song’s lyrical content.


The lyrics of “To Beat the Devil” are a central aspect of its enduring appeal. They are narrative-driven, telling the story of a down-and-out songwriter’s encounter with an old man in a bar, who symbolizes the devil. The protagonist is grappling with self-doubt and existential questions about his life’s purpose and the value of his art. The old man, in a cynical and taunting manner, questions the protagonist’s motives and the worth of his songs.
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One of the song’s most poignant lines is: “And you still can hear me singin’ to the people who don’t listen, to the things that I am sayin’, prayin’ someone’s gonna hear.” This line captures the essence of the artist’s struggle, the desire to be heard and understood, and the frustration of feeling ignored. The song’s climax comes with the protagonist’s defiant resolution to continue his pursuit, regardless of the obstacles and doubts: “But I know that I can make it, though you’re offerin’ me Jesus, through your mouth of broken teeth.” The song ends on a note of resilience and determination, with the protagonist choosing to persevere in his quest to create meaningful art, despite the devil’s attempts to dissuade him.

Cultural Impact

“To Beat the Devil” has had a significant impact on both Kris Kristofferson’s career and the broader landscape of country music. The song’s introspective lyrics and philosophical themes resonated with many listeners, particularly aspiring artists who saw their own struggles reflected in the protagonist’s journey. It helped cement Kristofferson’s reputation as a songwriter who could articulate complex emotions and ideas in a relatable and accessible manner. The song also contributed to the broader movement of country music toward more personal and introspective songwriting, a trend that gained momentum in the 1970s. Kristofferson’s influence can be seen in the work of subsequent generations of country artists who embraced a more confessional and narrative-driven approach to songwriting. Moreover, “To Beat the Devil” has been covered by various artists over the years, further testifying to its enduring relevance and appeal. Each rendition brings a new interpretation, but the core message of resilience and artistic integrity remains intact, continuing to inspire listeners across different contexts and eras.
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“To Beat the Devil” is more than just a song; it is a narrative of perseverance, self-reflection, and the eternal struggle between doubt and determination.



🎵 Let’s sing along with the lyrics! 🎤
A couple of years back I come across a great and wasted friend of mine in the hallway of a recording studio. And while he was reciting some poetry to me that he had written, I saw that he was about a step away from dying, and I couldn’t help but wonder why. And the lines of this song occurred to me. I’m happy to say he’s no longer wasted, and he’s got him a good woman. And I’d like to dedicate this to John and June, who helped showed me how to beat the devil.
It was wintertime in NashvilleDown on Music City RowAnd I was looking for a placeAnd to get myself out of the coldTo warm the frozen feeling that was eating at my soulKeep the chilly wind off my guitarMy thirsty wanted whiskeyBut my hunger needed beansBut it had been a month of paydaysSince I’d heard that eagle screamSo with a stomach full of emptyAnd a pocket full of dreamsI left my pride and stepped inside a barActually I’d guess you’d call it a tavernCigarette smoke to the ceilingAnd sawdust on the floorFriendly shadowsI saw that there was just one old man sitting at the barAnd in the mirror I could see him checking me and my guitarAnd he turned and said,Come up here, boy, and show us what you areI said I’m dry, and he bought me a beerHe nodded at my guitar and said,It’s a tough life, ain’t it?I just looked at himHe said, you ain’t making any money, are you?I said, you been reading my mailHe just smiled and said, let me see that guitarI got something you ought to hearAnd then he laid it on me
If you waste your time a talkingTo the people who don’t listenTo the things that you are sayingWho do you thinks gonna hear?And if you should die explaining howThe things that they complain aboutAre things they could be changingWho do you thinks gonna care?There were other lonely singersIn a world turned deaf and blindWho were crucified for what they tried to showAnd their voices have been scattered by the swirling winds of time‘Cause the truth remains that no one wants to know
Well the old man was a strangerBut I’d heard his song beforeBack when failure had me locked outOn the wrong side of the doorWhen no one stood behind meBut my shadow on the floorAnd lonesome was more than a state of mindYou see, the devil haunts a hungry manIf you don’t want to join himYou gotta beat himI ain’t saying I beat the devilBut I drank his beer for nothingThen I stole his song
And you still can hear me singingTo the people who don’t listenTo the things that I am sayingPraying someone’s gonna hearAnd I guess I’ll die explaining howThe things that they complain aboutAre things they could be changingHoping someone’s gonna careI was born a lonely singerAnd I’m bound to die the sameBut I’ve gotta feed the hunger in my soulAnd if I never have a nickelI won’t ever die ashamed‘Cause I don’t believe that no one wants to know

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