Me and Bobby McGee

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For the album entitled Me and Bobby McGee, see Kristofferson (album).
"Me and Bobby McGee"
Single by Roger Miller
from the album Roger Miller
Released July 1969
Format 7"
Recorded May 16, 1969
Genre Country
Length 4:02
Label BNA 69035
Writer(s) Kris Kristofferson
Fred Foster
Producer(s) Jerry Kennedy
Roger Miller singles chronology
"Vance"
(1969)
"Me and Bobby McGee"
(1969)
"Where Have All the Average People Gone"
(1969)

"Me and Bobby McGee" is a song written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, originally performed by Roger Miller. Others performed the song later, including the Grateful Dead, Kristofferson himself,[1] and Janis Joplin who topped the U.S. singles chart with the song in 1971 after her death, making the song the second posthumous number-one single in U.S. chart history after "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding.

History[edit]

In the original version of the song, Bobby is a woman. Joplin, who was allegedly a lover (but also a good friend and mentor) of Kristofferson's from the beginning of her career to her death, changed the sex and a few of the lyrics in her cover. Kristofferson stated he did not write this song for her, but the song is associated with her, especially in the line "Somewhere near Salinas, Lord, I let her slip away."[2]

In a conversation with director Monte Hellman called "Somewhere Near Salinas" (available in the supplements to the Criterion Collection DVD release of Two-Lane Blacktop, a film in which Kristofferson's version is used on the soundtrack), Kristofferson stated that the film La Strada was an inspiration for the song and remarked on the irony of how a song inspired by a classic road movie should come to be used in another.

The title came from [producer and Monument Records founder] Fred Foster. He called one night and said, "I've got a song title for you. It's 'Me and Bobby McKee'." I thought he said "McGee". Bobby McKee was the secretary of Boudleaux Bryant, who was in the same building with Fred. Then Fred says, "The hook is that Bobby McKee is a she. How does that grab you?" (Laughs) I said, "Uh, I'll try to write it, but I've never written a song on assignment." So it took me a while to think about.[1] - Kris Kristofferson

The original song is essentially a road story about two drifters, the narrator and his girlfriend Bobby McGee (boyfriend in Joplin's version). He speaks about thumbing a diesel truck and singing with the driver all the way. The couple travels to California, as they grow more intimate and help each other through the hardships of life, but by the final verse, Bobby gets tired of the road life and decides to settle down.

She parts ways with the narrator who still continues his lifestyle, though he may never be happy again without her, as he would trade his life just to be with her again for just one day.

Recordings and notable performances[edit]

"Me and Bobby McGee"
Single by Janis Joplin
from the album Pearl
B-side "Half Moon"
Released January 11, 1971 (1971-01-11)
Recorded September 5 - October 1, 1970
Genre Blues rock, country rock
Length 4:33
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Kris Kristofferson, Fred Foster
Producer(s) Paul A. Rothchild

Roger Miller was the first artist to have a hit with the song, peaking with it at No. 12 on the US country chart in 1969.

Gordon Lightfoot's version hit No. 13 on the pop chart and No. 1 country in his native Canada in 1970, and was also a top 10 hit in South Africa in 1971. Lightfoot sang the song after a detailed tribute to Kris Kristofferson in a CBC broadcast from the summer 1969 Charlottetown Festival.

In a 2008 autobiography, Don Reid and Harold Reid of the Statler Brothers say Kristofferson promised it to them, but when they later inquired about recording it, they learned Miller had already cut the song. The Reids say there were no hard feelings, and were happy about Miller's success with the song. The song was later included on a Statler Brothers album, and was not released as a single.

Joplin also covered the song for inclusion on her Pearl album only a few days before her death in October 1970. Kristofferson had sung the song for her, and singer Bob Neuwirth taught it to her. Kristofferson did not know she had covered it until after her death. The first time he heard her recording of it was the day after she died.[3]

Joplin's version topped the charts to become her only number one single and in 2004, her version of this song was ranked No. 148 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. She also had heard Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead's accelerated ending and liked it so much she added her much more energetic "rap" to the end of the song. The Dead regularly covered the song between 1970 and 1981.

Kristofferson performed the song live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 and a CD and DVD of the event were issued 30 years later as Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival 1970.

The Joplin version was used prominently in the epilogue of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's epic film of Berlin Alexanderplatz.

In 2002, Jennifer Love Hewitt covered Joplin's version of the song, used acoustic equipment and included it in her fourth studio album BareNaked.

Chart positions (Roger Miller version)[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 12
U.S. Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 22
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 3

Selected list of recorded versions[edit]

Other artists
Preceded by
"Everything a Man Could Ever Need" by Glen Campbell
RPM Country Tracks number-one single (Gordon Lightfoot version)
September 19, 1970
Succeeded by
"Countryfied" by Dick Damron
Preceded by
"One Bad Apple" by The Osmonds
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single (Janis Joplin version)
March 20, 1971
Succeeded by
"Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" by The Temptations

References[edit]

External links[edit]