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Only a man of such grand personality as Cowboy Jack Clement could attract well-wishers as varied as Taylor Swift and Kris Kristofferson. The legendary 81-year-old producer, engineer, songwriter and artist—a Nashville Renaissance man if ever there was one—was feted last night during an intimate evening of speeches and musical performances at the Nashville War Memorial Auditorium.
All of the performances were of songs written by, produced by or in some way connected to Cowboy Jack, who famously got his start working at Sun Records with producer Sam Phillips. Vince Gill interpreted "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger," John Prine tackled "Ballad of a Teenage Queen," Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell harmonized on "Dreaming My Dreams With You," and Country Music Hall of Famer Charley Pride—whom Cowboy discovered—performed his hit "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'."
"I owe everything good that ever happened to me to Jack," Kris Kristofferson said before performing "Big River," a song most identified with Cowboy Jack's pal Johnny Cash.
But the salute wasn't just limited to country artists. Soul singer Amos Lee also performed, as did Dan Auerbach, one-half of rock's current It group the Black Keys, and John Hiatt, who roared through Waylon Jennings' "Amanda."
Taylor Swift appeared in a video tribute to Cowboy, offering, "Thank you for your vote of confidence in me." President Bill Clinton, producer Rick Rubin and U2 frontman Bono also turned in video messages.
The tribute wrapped up with Cowboy—who shockingly is not yet a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame—himself taking the stage, performing an emotional "When I Dream" and a rollicking "Good Hearted Woman."
Look for more on the tribute to Cowboy Jack Clement in the Feb. 25 issue of Country Weekly, on stands Feb. 18.