Kris Kristofferson and Lou Reed shared a stage once in their storied careers and the performance is now available via the live album Lou Reed and Kris Kristofferson: In Their Own Words with Vin Scelsa, recorded at the Bottom Line club in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood in 1994.
Reed, who died of liver disease in 2013, and Kristofferson were both elder statesmen in the music business by the early Nineties, when they were brought together to trade stories and swap songs for an evening hosted by New York radio host Vin Scelsa. The Bottom Line, which celebrated its 20th anniversary the same month these two singers met up – February 1994 – and would close 10 years later, was also the site of Reed’s Live: Take No Prisoners album, which he recorded there in 1978.
Kristofferson plays “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” his 1970 hit that went to Number One with Johnny Cash, at the behest of Scelsa. He then segues into “The Pilgrim,” which he dedicates to fellow songwriter Bob Neuwirth. Neuwirth, an old buddy of Bob Dylan’s from his days in the Village, introduced Kristofferson to Janis Joplin, who in turn made his “Me and Bobby McGee” a Number One song, as well.
Most fascinating of all is the banter between Reed and Kristofferson, two men from vastly different backgrounds who nonetheless became outlaw figures of Seventies songwriting. “Some songs seem to be more powerful in the first person, and my life isn’t all that exciting,” Reed says, explaining his use of composite storytelling, which was often mistaken as autobiographical. “If you do it really well, people should believe it happened to you.” Kristofferson chimes in, telling Reed, “Everything you write is autobiographical, Lou.”
Lou Reed and Kris Kristofferson: In Their Own Words with Vin Scelsa will be released September 15th via the Bottom Line Archive label. The album also features the pair’s classic songs “Sweet Jane” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” as well as Kristofferson doing a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.”