Kris Kristofferson surprised fans and the music industry on Wednesday (Jan. 27) with the announcement that he had quietly retired in 2020. The music icon played what turned out to be the final full concert of his career on Jan. 30, 2020, and footage is available online.
The 84-year-old singer-songwriter continued to record and tour well into his later years, giving solo performances and also touring with the members of Merle Haggard‘s legendary band, the Strangers. They backed him up at his final show, which took place in the Stardust Theater onboard the Norwegian Pearl during the fifth annual Outlaw Country Cruise.
Rolling Stone first ran the audience-shot footage below, captured during the show. According to Setlist.fm, Kristofferson began the performance with “Shipwrecked in the Eighties” and ran through a set of classics that included “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again),” “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33,” “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” “For the Good Times” and “Why Me,” as well as a number of lesser-known tracks and several Haggard covers.
Kristofferson closed the final performance of his concert career with “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends.”
As Rolling Stone reports, a number of writers Kristofferson has influenced, including Lucinda Williams, Shooter Jennings, Jim Lauderdale, Steve Earle and more, also paid tribute to Kristofferson with a special performance during the cruise. The all-star lineup assembled on stage to finish that show with a group rendition of “Why Me” that Kristofferson led.
The news of Kristofferson’s retirement was part of a press release announcing that his son, John, is now heading up the family’s businesses, adding that there are “many exciting projects” coming up to bring Kristofferson’s legacy to old fans and introduce his body of work to new generations.
Kristofferson’s final performance capped off an incredible career. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1977, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004. He joined the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame in 2016, and the Country Music Association awarded him the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
The music legend also had a parallel film career. Highlights from his filmography include Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Blade, He’s Just Not That Into You, Dolphin Tale and more. Kristofferson won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor — Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his role in A Star Is Born opposite Barbra Streisand in 1976.
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