Sammi Smith (August 5, 1943 - February 12, 2005) was an American country music singer and songwriter. Born Jewel Faye Smith, she is best known for her 1971 country/pop crossover hit, "Help Me Make It Through the Night", which was written by Kris Kristofferson. She became one of the few women in the outlaw country movement during the 1970s.
Sammi Smith was born Jewel Fay Smith in Orange County, California, in 1943 but spent her childhood in the Southwest. She dropped out of school at the age of eleven and began to sing professionally in nightclubs. She was only fifteen when she married, and eventually had four children. In 1967, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, after her recent divorce. When Johnny Cash got wind of her talent, she was soon signed with Columbia Records. She produced her first minor country hit in 1968 titled "So Long, Charlie Brown, Don't Look for Me Around". The song showed Smith's potential as a country powerhouse.
"Help Me Make It Through the Night" was Sammi Smith's career hit and the one that made her famous. She had been one of the rare women in the "outlaw country" movement sweeping country music in the 1970s. At this time, country was moving in two directions: "outlaw" and a more mainstream pop sound. However, "outlaw country" would be short-lived, with country taking on a distinctly pop cast by the end of the '70s. Smith would still remain with the "outlaw" sound throughout the 1970s.
In 1970, Smith signed with a new label Mega Records and her first hit for her new label was called "He's Everywhere", which made the top 25 on the country charts.
Finally, in 1971, she struck gold with "Help Me Make It Through the Night". The song immediately became a #1 hit on the country charts and #8 on the Billboard U.S. pop chart. It sold over two million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in April 1971. At first, record companies were uncomfortable with the song's honest sexuality, which was new for country music, but DJs tested the song and the response from listeners was enormous. The song had been composed by Kris Kristofferson, only a songwriter at the time, who had recorded the only other version of the song. After Smith's hit, the song was later covered by Gladys Knight and the Pips and Elvis Presley; both versions achieved more modest chart success.
After the success of her hit, Smith continued to have more success on the country charts. In 1973, Sammi moved to Dallas, Texas, with Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson to become a country "outlaw". Smith would continue to have an ongoing friendship with Jennings and Nelson for the rest of her life. Smith continued to have success with various record labels up to 1979 after which, little was heard from Sammi. She had, however, moved to Arizona and became involved in Native American causes, working for Apaches. She also started her own band called Apache Spirit, which was made up of Native Americans.
In 1995 a compilation album was released called The Best of Sammi Smith, which consisted of her big hit and many other various countrypolitan songs.
On February 12, 2005, at the age of 61, Sammi Smith died at her home in Oklahoma City. Although the cause of her death was never confirmed, it was known that Smith was a heavy smoker. (Info edited mainly from Wikipedia)