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Me and Bobby McGee

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"Me and Bobby McGee"
Side A of the US single
Single by Janis Joplin
from the album Pearl
B-side"Half Moon"
ReleasedJanuary 12, 1971 (1971-01-12)
RecordedSeptember 5 – October 1, 1970
Genre
Length4:09 (single version)
4:28 (album version)
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Paul A. Rothchild
Music video
"Me and Bobby McGee" on YouTube

"Me and Bobby McGee" is a song written by American singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson and originally performed by Roger Miller. Fred Foster shares the writing credit, as Kristofferson wrote the song based on a suggestion from Foster.[1] 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 released a version that reached number 1 on the Canadian country charts in 1970. Jerry Lee Lewis released a version that was number 1 on the country charts in December 1971/January 1972 as the "B" side of "Would You Take Another Chance On Me." Billboard ranked Joplin's version as the No. 11 song for 1971.

In 2002, the 1971 version of the song by Janis Joplin on Columbia Records was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[2]

History[edit]

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.[3]

Narrative[edit]

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 before making their way westward. 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.

Recordings and notable performances[edit]

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.[4] 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.

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. Kristofferson had sung the song for her, and singer Bob Neuwirth taught it to her. 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.[5] Record World called it a "perfect matching of performer and material."[6] Joplin's version topped the charts to become her only number one single; her version was later ranked No. 148 on Rolling Stone's 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[7]

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly singles charts[edit]

Roger Miller version[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles[8] 12
U.S. Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100[9] 22
Canadian RPM Country Tracks[10] 3

Gordon Lightfoot version[edit]

Chart (1970) Peak
position
Canada RPM Country Tracks[11] 1
Canada RPM Top Singles[12] 13
South Africa (Springbok)[13] 7

Janis Joplin version[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Janis Joplin's version[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[27] Platinum 1,000,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Selected list of recorded versions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kristofferson, Kristoffer. "Ralph Emery Show". Youtube. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  2. ^ https://www.grammy.com/awards/hall-of-fame-award#m
  3. ^ Campbell, Courtney. "'Me and Bobby McGee': The Story Behind the Song". Wide Open Country. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel. Joel Whitburn’s Top Country Songs: 1944-2005, Billboard, Record Research Inc. Menomonee Falls, WI: 2005, p. 252
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "Single Product" (PDF). Record World. January 23, 1971. p. 236. Retrieved April 14, 2023.
  7. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. December 11, 2003. Retrieved June 4, 2024.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 232.
  9. ^ Joel Whitburn's Bubbling Under the Billboard Hot 100 1959-2004
  10. ^ "RPM Top 30 Country Singles - October 25, 1969" (PDF).
  11. ^ "RPM Top 50 Country Singles - September 19, 1970" (PDF).
  12. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - September 19, 1970" (PDF).
  13. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". August 13, 1971. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  14. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W., Australia: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  15. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - March 27, 1971" (PDF).
  16. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Archived from the original on February 3, 2021. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  17. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  18. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles". Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  19. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. January 22, 1972. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  20. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  21. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, January 15, 1972
  22. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Country Singles 1944-1988
  23. ^ "Australian Chart Book". Austchartbook.com.au. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  24. ^ "RPM Top Singles of '71 - January 8, 1972" (PDF).
  25. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1971/Top 100 Songs of 1971". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  26. ^ "Top 100 Year End Charts: 1971". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved May 30, 2016.
  27. ^ "American single certifications – Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  28. ^ "Upp till Ragvaldsträsk! | Svensk mediedatabas". SMDB.kb.se. Retrieved October 2, 2016.

External links[edit]