Reba, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Willie Nelson Honor Kris Kristofferson In Nashville

Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson. Photo: Marina Chavez

A first-rate lineup of country performers took the stage at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena last night (March 16) to pay tribute to the storied and eclectic life of songwriter, singer, entertainer, and actor Kris Kristofferson.

Of course, there are many more superlatives to add to that list: Kristofferson has also been a Golden Gloves boxer, a Rhodes scholar, a college football player, a military officer, a helicopter pilot, a Grammy-winner, and an icon. Kristofferson’s acting roles have included A Star is Born (opposite Barbra Streisand, who sent in a video tribute for the evening), as well as Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Blade and more films.

Reba, Alison Krauss, Buddy Miller, Larry Gatlin, Jessi Alexander, Jon RandallJessi Colter, Shooter Jennings, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Ryan Bingham, Rosanne Cash, Eric Church, Emmylou Harris, Jack Ingram, Jamey Johnson, Martina McBride, Willie Nelson, Jennifer Nettles, Darius Rucker, Hank Williams Jr. and Lee Ann Womack all took a turn in the spotlight to pay honor with their renditions of his hit songs.

Nettles brought one of the evening’s early standing ovations, for her passionate, spirited rendition of “Worth Fighting For,” a track recorded on Kristofferson’s 1995 album A Moment Of Forever.

Johnson and Krauss opted for a quieter, lush performance of “For The Good Times,” followed by Krauss’ solo take on “Casey’s Last Ride,” a track from the 1970 Monument Records release Kristofferson.

Bentley offered a bluegrass spin on “From The Bottle To The Bottom,” with help from the Travelin’ McCourys. The track was included on Bentley’s 2010 album Up On The Ridge, and featured Kristofferson.

Throughout the evening, Kristofferson collaborated with performers, including “Lonely Way Back Home” with Harris. Reba coaxed a sing-along chorus on his classic “Me and Bobby McGee.”

“This song and Kris saved my life,” said Church, before performing “To Beat The Devil.” Church told the crowd he almost packed it up and headed back to North Carolina early in his career. “I had a rough time in Nashville, like a lot of people who get told ‘No’ a lot. I played that game where if I get told no one more time, I’m outta here.” He met with a publisher the next day. I played maybe half a song and the guy said, ‘I don’t know where you are from, and I don’t know much about ya, but I’d go back there.'” Church went to his car and “To Beat The Devil” came on. “It talked about the very thing I was going through.”

After hearing the song, he pressed on, determined to stay just one more day in Nashville. “That next day, I got a publishing deal,” said Church. “So I’m here because of that man right there,” he said, as Kristofferson sat on the side of the stage.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry made a surprise appearance to proclaim March 16, 2016 as Kris Kristofferson Day in Nashville. “I’m speechless. You blew me away. Nashville saved my life again,” said Kristofferson.

The crowd was on its feet as Nelson took the stage, offering the song “Living Legend,” before he was joined by Kristofferson for “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”

Kristofferson and Nelson, the surviving half of 1980s country supergroup The Highwaymen, were joined by Waylon Jennings’ son Shooter, as well as Johnson, for a rendition of “The Highwaymen.”

The evening culminated in an all-star singalong, led by Kristofferson, on his classic “Why Me Lord.”

Set List:

“Kristofferson,” performed by Jessi Alexander, Jon Randall and Larry Gatlin
“Jesus Was A Capricorn,” performed by Jack Ingram
“Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends,” performed by Buddy Miller
“Here Comes That Rainbow Again,” performed by Martina McBride
“The Taker,” performed by Ryan Bingham
“Nobody Wins,” performed by Lee Ann Womack
“Worth Fighting For,” performed by Jennifer Nettles
“Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again),” performed by Rosanne Cash
“Chase The Feeling,” performed by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell
“The Pilgrim, Chapter 33,” performed by Emmylou Harris (featuring Kristofferson)
“Bottle To The Bottom,” performed by Dierks Bentley and the Travelin’ McCourys
“Help Me Make It Through The Night,” performed by Lady Antebellum
“Under The Gun,” performed by Darius Rucker
“For The Good Times,” performed by Alison Krauss and Jamey Johnson
“Casey’s Last Ride,” performed by Alison Krauss
“If You Don’t Like Hank Williams,” performed by Hank Williams, Jr.
“To Beat The Devil,” performed by Eric Church
“Me and Bobby McGee,” performed by Reba
“Living Legend,” performed by Willie Nelson
“Sunday Morning Comin’ Down,” performed by Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson
“The Highwaymen,” performed by Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Shooter Jennings, and Jamey Johnson
“Why Me Lord,” all-star finale led by Kristofferson

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at jnicholson@musicrow.com.

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