Me and Bobby McGee
|"Me and Bobby McGee"|
|Single by Janis Joplin|
|from the album Pearl|
|Released||January 12, 1971|
|Recorded||September 5 – October 1, 1970|
|Genre||Blues rock, country rock|
|Songwriter(s)||Kris Kristofferson, Fred Foster|
|Producer(s)||Paul A. Rothchild|
"Me and Bobby McGee" is a song written by American singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson and originally performed by Roger Miller, whose songs "King Of The Road," "Dang Me" and "Do-Wacka-Do" defined a generation of crossover country music. Fred Foster shares the writing credit, as Kris Kristofferson intended. A posthumously released version by Janis Joplin topped the U.S. singles chart in 1971, making the song the second posthumously released No. 1 single in U.S. chart history after "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding. Gordon Lightfoot and Jerry Lee Lewis also released versions reaching number 1 on the country charts in 1970 and 1971 respectively. Billboard ranked Joplin's version as the No. 11 song for 1971.
The suggestion for the title was a cordial challenge from producer and Monument Records founder Fred Foster to Kris Kristofferson. The titular character was named for a studio secretary, Barbara "Bobbie" McKee, but Kristofferson had misheard her surname. He explained that he was trying to convey the despair of the last scene of Federico Fellini’s La Strada in which a broken, war-torn, inebriated man (played by Anthony Quinn) stares up from the beach at the night's stars, and breaks down sobbing.
The song is the story of two drifters, the narrator and Bobby McGee. The pair hitch a ride from a truck driver and sing as they drive through the American South. Alternatively, and much more likely based upon the lyrics that say they are "Busted flat in Baton Rouge and waiting for a train," the "diesel" in question was a diesel train, which took the pair the relatively short distance from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Interestingly, they somehow go back eastward to Kentucky, before making their way back westward to California. They visit California and then part ways, with the song's narrator expressing sadness afterwards. Due to the singer's name never being mentioned and the name "Bobby" being gender-neutral (especially in America), the song has been recorded by both male and female singers with only minor differences in the lyrical content. However, in the original Roger Miller version, it is clear that, just as with the Monuments Records secretary, Bobby / Bobbie was female.
Recordings and notable performances
Roger Miller was the first artist to record the song (in May 1969), and it appeared at No. 12 on the U.S. country chart in 1969. Kenny Rogers and The First Edition recorded the song in May/June 1969, and released it on their album Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town in 1969. On the Canadian charts, Gordon Lightfoot's version (recorded in November 1969) hit No. 13 on the pop music chart and No. 1 on the country music chart in 1970. The song was included on the 1970 Statler Brothers album Bed of Rose's, but was not released as a single.
Kris Kristofferson recorded his own version of the song on his debut album Kristofferson in 1970. Later that year, his version of the song appeared in Monte Hellman's psychedelic road movie Two-Lane Blacktop. Kristofferson also appears briefly singing the song in the 1971 Dennis Hopper film The Last Movie.
Janis Joplin recorded the song for inclusion on her Pearl album only a few days before her death in October 1970. Kris Kristofferson had sung the song for her, and singer Bob Neuwirth taught it to her. Kris Kristofferson did not know she had recorded the song until after her death. The first time he heard her recording of it was the day after she died. Janis Joplin's version topped the charts to become her only number one single and in 1971, her version of this song was ranked No. 148 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Weekly singles charts
Roger Miller version
|U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles||12|
|U.S. Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100||22|
|Canadian RPM Country Tracks||3|
Gordon Lightfoot version
|Canada RPM Country Tracks||1|
|Canada RPM Top Singles||13|
|South Africa (Springbok)||7|
Janis Joplin version
Charley Pride version
Jerry Lee Lewis version
Janis Joplin's version
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000|
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
Selected list of recorded versions
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- 1969 Roger Miller - album Roger Miller
- 1969 Roy Clark - album The Everlovin' Soul of Roy Clark
- 1969 The Stonemans - album Dawn of the Stonemans' Age
- 1969 Kenny Rogers & The First Edition - album Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town
- 1970 Charley Pride - album Just Plain Charley
- 1970 Ramblin' Jack Elliott - album Bull Durham Sacks & Railroad Tracks
- 1970 The Statler Brothers - album Bed of Rose's
- 1970 Gordon Lightfoot - album Sit Down Young Stranger
- 1970 Kris Kristofferson - album Kristofferson, this version also appears in the film Two-Lane Blacktop
- 1970 Bill Haley & His Comets - album Rock Around the Country
- 1970 Sam The Sham - single "Me And Bobby McGee/Key To The Highway" (Atlantic #2757)
- 1971 Dave Dudley - album Will the Real Dave Dudley Please Sing
- 1971 John Mogensen as "Carsten Levin" Danish - single, featured on the album John (1973)
- 1971 Janis Joplin U.S. number-one single, from the album Pearl
- 1971 & 1972 Jerry Lee Lewis - B-side of "Would You Take Another Chance on Me" / album The Killer Rocks On
- 1971 Dottie West - album Have You Heard...
- 1971 Grateful Dead - album Skull & Roses
- 1971 Loretta Lynn - album I Wanna Be Free
- 1971 Lalla Hansson as "Anna & mej" Swedish - album Upp till Ragvaldsträsk scoring a Tio i Topp hit.
- 1972 Johnny Cash - album På Österåker
- 1972 Charlie McCoy - album Charlie McCoy
- 1972 Jeannie C. Riley - album Give Myself a Party
- 1973 Waylon Jennings - album Lonesome, On'ry and Mean
- 1973 Chet Atkins - album Alone
- 1973 Thelma Houston - album Thelma Houston
- 1973 Olivia Newton-John - album Let Me Be There
- 1974 Lonnie Donegan - album Lonnie Donegan Meets Leinemann
- 1974 Cornelis Vreeswijk as "Jag och Bosse Lidén" Swedish - album Getinghonung
- 1979 Gianna Nannini as "Io e Bobby McGee" Italian - album California
- 1984 Joan Baez - album Live Europe '83 album
- 1990 The Highwaymen - Live: American Outlaws
- 1994 Melissa Etheridge - album Acoustic
- 1997 Loquillo - album Compañeros de viaje
- 1999 LeAnn Rimes - album LeAnn Rimes
- 1999 Barb Jungr - album Bare
- 2002 Anne Murray - album Country Croonin'
- 2002 Jennifer Love Hewitt - album Bare Naked
- 2002 Waterloo & Robinson as "Ich und BobbyMcGee" German - album Marianne
- 2003 Jerry Jeff Walker - album Too Old To Change
- 2004 Pink - album Live in Europe
- 2005 Dolly Parton - album Those Were The Days
- 2005 Arlo Guthrie - album Live In Sydney
- 2006 Dale Ann Bradley - album Catch Tomorrow
- 2007 Angela Kalule - The Last King of Scotland soundtrack
- 2007 Caroline af Ugglas - album Joplin på Svenska
- 2008 Amanda Strydom - album kerse teen die donker
- 2010 Crystal Bowersox on American Idol iTunes release of studio version from Top 11 week, and Final 2 week, of season 9
- 2016 Matt Doyle - album Uncontrolled
- Kristofferson, Kristoffer. "Ralph Emery Show". Youtube. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
- Campbell, Courtney. "'Me and Bobby McGee': The Story Behind the Song". Wide Open Country. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
- Whitburn, Joel. Joel Whitburn’s Top Country Songs: 1944-2005, Billboard, Record Research Inc. Menomonee Falls, WI: 2005, p. 252
- Hawke, Ethan (April 16, 2009). "The Last Outlaw Poet". Rolling Stone. No. 1076. p. 57. Archived from the original on April 10, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 232.
- Joel Whitburn's Bubbling Under the Billboard Hot 100 1959-2004
- "RPM Top 30 Country Singles - October 25, 1969" (PDF).
- "RPM Top 50 Country Singles - September 19, 1970" (PDF).
- "RPM Top 100 Singles - September 19, 1970" (PDF).
- "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". August 13, 1971. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W., Australia: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "RPM Top 100 Singles - March 27, 1971" (PDF).
- "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
- "Cash Box Top 100 Singles". Retrieved June 4, 2016.
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. January 22, 1972. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
- Cash Box Top 100 Singles, January 15, 1972
- Joel Whitburn's Top Country Singles 1944-1988
- "Australian Chart Book". Austchartbook.com.au. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- "RPM Top Singles of '71 - January 8, 1972" (PDF).
- "Top 100 Hits of 1971/Top 100 Songs of 1971". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- "Top 100 Year End Charts: 1971". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved May 30, 2016.
- "American single certifications – Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
- "Upp till Ragvaldsträsk! | Svensk mediedatabas". SMDB.kb.se. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- New Yorker cartoon quoting the song
- A SecondHandSongs list of selected artists who covered "Me and Bobby McGee"
- FILM:ACOUSTIC - Kris Kristofferson performs "Me and Bobby McGee" and relates La Strada by The Modern School of Film at ArcLight Presents...
- The Epic Story Behind Janis Joplin’s "Me and Bobby McGee" at History by Day
- on YouTube