WATCH: Willie Nelson Pays Tribute to Kris Kristofferson with Incredible ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ Performance

by Emily Morgan

During an Austin City New Year’s Eve episode in 2016, artists of all genres came together to honor Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, and the late B.B. King.

For Kristofferson’s tribute, his longtime pal Willie Nelson came onstage to perform one of Kristofferson’s signature songs, “Me And Bobby McGee.”

While Kristofferson has experienced a successful career as a country music singer, he’s also well-known for his excellent songwriting. Kristofferson was behind some of the most iconic songs of all time, including one famous tune that gave Janis Joplin her number one hit, “Me and Bobby McGee.”

Kristofferson co-wrote the song with Fred Foster. While many believe Joplin was the first to record it, it was actually country artist Roger Miller who was the first to sing the classic hit.

After the initial release, other artists such as Kenny Rogers, the Grateful Dead, and Kristofferson put their own spin on the song.

While Joplin’s 1971 version is the most well-known, it has experienced countless reinventions since the first recording.

Willie Nelson Honors Kris Kristofferson by Performing His Own Song For Him

During the ACL tribute for Kristofferson, Nelson and his harmonica player Mickey Raphael perform the song for Kristofferson. He later joined Nelson on stage for the performance but took a step back to let his long-haired friend take the lead.

As Nelson sang, Kristofferson strummed on the guitar, with a smile on his face the entire time, obviously taking in the surrealness of the moment. While Nelson meant for the performance to honor Kristofferson, it really highlighted the friendship between the two.

This isn’t the first time the two have come together to sing the song— Kristofferson, Nelson, and their Highwaymen colleague, Johnny Cash, performed the song together decades earlier.

In 1985 the three country legends gathered together to sing the song on a television show.

Cash and Kristofferson began as the only ones on stage, with Cash playing guitar for Kristofferson while he sang the song he penned years earlier.

Suddenly, Nelson appears once they hit the chorus, and all three of them joined in and started singing all at once.

Cash took over on the second verse, and Kristofferson comes in later for a duet. By the time they reached the chorus again, Nelson joins in to help them finish the song.