The iconic work of singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson was honored during The Life & Songs of Kris Kristofferson on Wednesday night (March 16), a special concert event that featured more than 20 of country’s brightest stars and filled Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to capacity.
Kristofferson, a Country Music Hall of Fame member, is considered a true poet who helped modernize the genre with songs such as “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Lovin’ Her Was Easier.” These are the songs of heartbreak and despair, of love and loss, of yearning and hope. These are the songs so honest that we adopted them as our own. They are the songs of a life led unlike any other: An All-American athlete, Golden Gloves boxer, Army Ranger, helicopter pilot, singer-songwriter, social activist, humanitarian and movie star.
The show was emceed by actor W. Earl Brown (Deadwood, Black Mass) and lasted several hours as Kris and his wife, Lisa, seated onstage, “watched as a parade of hit-making artists jumped at the chance to perform one of the legend’s songs,. According to Nash Country Weekly, “Kris himself stepped up to sing a few of his masterfully written tunes, capping the night with a latter-day Highwaymen reunion that featured original member Willie Nelson along with Shooter Jennings and Jamey Johnson, and an all-hands-on-deck singalong of the gracious “Why Me.”” More performing stars included Reba McEntire, Alison Krauss, Buddy Miller, Larry Gatlin, Jessi Colter, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Ryan Bingham, Rosanne Cash, Eric Church, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Jack Ingram, Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles, Darius Rucker, Hank Williams Jr. and Lee Ann Womack.
Several artists recalled how Kris had affected their careers either to not give up or by helping them starting up….as Nash County Weekly noted, “artists walking the red carpet explained how much Kris had meant to them personally, but perhaps no one summed up the reason for the tribute concert better than Rosanne Cash, who said she first met Kris as a teenager and went on to think of him as a member of her family. ” “He’s so special, and no one deserves this honor more because this body of work, these songs, will last forever,” she said. “When I first met him he was still a little on the wild side, and he was an intimidating presence—this kind of wild, gorgeous man. So I was a little scared at first, but he’s got an enormous heart and his poetry is a standard to reach for and so is the way he lives his life . . . He’s never been afraid to state his beliefs and have the courage of conviction, no matter how unpopular it was, no matter the blowback that he got. And at the same time that he stated those, it wasn’t with anger or bullying like you see today, it was with compassion and a sense of his own integrity, and that’s a powerful thing to put that out there.”…”Larry Gatlin, who credits Kris with jump-starting his career after Larry’s song “Help Me” partially inspired Kris’ own composition “Why Me,” said it even more simply.”… “Tonight is very well deserved and I think he’s the greatest songwriter in the history of the English language, bar none,” he said.” “Meanwhile, Jack Ingram put each of the artists’ devotion to Kris into words….“Until he’s not here anymore, I’ll take every chance I can get to be in the same rarified air as him.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Berry proclaimed March 16 as Kris Kristofferson Day in Music City, and Kris humbly accepted the honor with extraordinary class. “You blow me away, Nashville,” he said. “You saved my life. Thank you.”
Story and song “Why Me Lord” told by Kris Kristofferson below.