Any salute to Kris Kristofferson must nod to his time with the Highwaymen, the Eighties supergroup he formed with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. Fittingly, then, Wednesday night’s “The Life & Songs of Kris Kristofferson” tribute concert in Nashville featured a reconstituted Highwaymen, with guest of honor Kristofferson and Nelson — the two surviving Highwaymen — joined by Shooter Jennings and Jamey Johnson. Together, the foursome performed the band’s signature song, “Highwayman.”
Jennings, the son of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, filled in on the “dam builder” verse sung by his late father, who died in 2002, while Johnson’s fathoms-deep baritone ably re-created Johnny Cash’s part about living on to “fly a starship.” Cash died in 2003.
Written by Jimmy Webb, “Highwayman” is a song about reincarnation, with each of the singer’s taking a verse (Nelson sang about being a bandit; Kristofferson, a sailor). It hit Number One in 1985, making it the group’s only chart-topper.
The original Highwaymen will be the focus of a new episode of PBS’s American Masters. Titled The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End, the documentary premieres Friday, May 27th.
The Kristofferson tribute concert was also filmed for air at a later date on a network to be announced. Along with the updated Highwaymen’s performance, the show featured artists like Reba McEntire, Jennifer Nettles and Hank Williams Jr. singing the works of Kristofferson.