Kristofferson and Springsteen have met many times over the years and share a great deal of mutual respect, but have never recorded or performed together.
"It's hard for me to believe that Bruce is 60. But he's as fresh today as when he was a kid. I was just thinking how great it is that somebody as popular and powerful as he is has devoted as much time as he has to good causes.
"The volume of his work is really incredible for one person, but it's so powerful that it has been a positive force for the side of the angels. 'The Rising' is just one signal moment among many, I would say. 'Born in the U.S.A.'—that was a step [forward] because it was a perfect blend of a message song that just lifted your spirits and your heart. It was as stirring as the national anthem. It's the best of that kind of music, which can be preachy or boring like a classroom lecture. Bruce struck a chord with the people and never lost it.
"I'm very inspired by his stuff, and I'm sure Bruce knows it. I say, 'Happy Birthday, Bruce.' I expect him to sound just as good and be writing just as powerfully when he's 120."
The former Credence Clearwater Revival songwriter, guitarist, and lead singer (and for many years since, a solo act), participated in the 2004 Vote for Change concerts that featured Springsteen and a number of other top acts.
"With Bruce, it's all about doing the best job you can possibly pull out of yourself, and so everybody around him catches that spirit. In 2004, that was no ragtag band of ruffians barnstorming the country. We weren't—how do I say this delicately?—a bunch of hippies driving around in Ken Kesey's bus. Bruce was remarkably calm shouldering the weight of that whole thing. He never let on that it was sort of all on his head, even though if it didn't work out there were many, many forces poised to just lambaste him. He was the face, the name on the tour, and he would take the brunt of that criticism. God knows, you can't look silly or flippant or like an airhead. There was a lot of rehearsing, a lot of getting things right so that we wouldn't crumple in front of people. Bruce just led by example, and he finished that project with a lot of grace.
"The morning after the election, he called me. I was in an airport off for somewhere, and I think he was, too. It was the last thing in the world I expected—a very sweet moment that meant a lot. George Bush had won again, and the fact that he took the time to commiserate about what we had worked to keep from happening again told me he felt possessive of it. He took ownership of the fact that all these people had worked so hard for a good common cause. It would be like two players after a tough football game looking at each other, going, 'Well, we got another game next week, let's go try again.' "
Mark Quandt, executive director, Regional Food Bank, northeastern New York
Springsteen has long supported food banks, raising funds and asking fans to contribute canned goods at his concerts. Quant's food bank benefited from auctioning four tickets donated by Springsteen to his May 2009 concert in Albany.
"Bruce donated four tickets and a backstage pass to the E Street Lounge—including meeting Little Stevie. Then he offered to do a meet-and-greet himself for the top bidder above $10,000—a 15-minute meet-and-greet, not just like a 'Hi, how are you, thanks for coming' kind of thing. He threw that in this year because this is the most difficult period we've experienced, with our needs greater than ever.