Country Superstars Serenade Muhammad Ali

It takes a lot to get a legend like Kris Kristofferson to leave his happy home and make a rare appearance.

But the singer-songwriter-actor did just that last night in Phoenix, Arizona to play for the Greatest, Muhammad Ali.

Not only that: Kristofferson was joined on stage at a private dinner for 200 patrons of Ali’s Parkinson’s fund by Jessi Colter, widow of his late best friend Waylon Jennings. The pair sang a song Jennings wrote but never recorded for the Champ, and it brought tears to Ali’s eyes. There wasn’t a dry eye in the massive tent that was built on the grounds of the Marriott Desert Ridge.

Colter, of course, is also famous for her hits like “I’m Not Lisa.” Even though she’s off the circuit, she told me she couldn’t resist coming by for Ali. “Waylon wrote the song but he never got to perform it for anyone except the Champ,” she said.

But that wasn’t all: at this annual pre-Fight Night event, organizer Jimmy Walker wouldn’t let Kristofferson off the stage. Walker and emcee David Foster chided Kris to play “Me and Bobby McGee,” the big hit he wrote for Janis Joplin in 1970. Kristofferson obliged, and about a quarter way through, with Foster on piano, superstar Reba McEntire was pushed on stage to join them–without rehearsal!

Did she know the song? “Are you kidding?” Reba exclaimed when the show was over. “I’ve known it all my life. But they didn’t even tell me I’d be singing. Oh my!”

Reba is set to perform tonight at the big swanky Fight Night dinner along with “Soul Man” Sam Moore and a bunch of other stars including Chris Tucker, John Corbett and Bo Derek, Randy Jackson, and many others. And the big news: Kristofferson liked the first night so much, he’s staying for the second one!

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