Kris Kristofferson was playing a show in Iowa on Wednesday night, but one of his most famous compositions was blaring throughout Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena at the 53rd annual CMA Awards. Sheryl Crow and Dierks Bentley teamed up to perform Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” with an assist from Chris Janson on harmonica and Brothers Osborne’s John Osborne and the Eagles’ Joe Walsh on guitar.
The performance was the centerpiece of a tribute to the 83-year-old songwriter and Country Music Hall of Fame member, who received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. (Ironically, while Kristofferson was off on tour, Nelson was making a rare appearance at the CMAs, performing “Rainbow Connection” with Kacey Musgraves.)
Most famously performed and recorded by Janis Joplin in 1970 for her 1971 Pearl album, “Me and Bobby McGee” was first cut by Roger Miller in 1969. Kristofferson wrote the song about a life lived without obligations — “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose” — with Fred Foster and recorded his own gruff-voiced version in 1970.
Kristofferson is the latest recipient of the career achievement award named after his friend and partner in the Highwaymen, Willie Nelson. Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, and most recently, Dolly Parton are all past winners.