Me and Bobby McGee

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"Me and Bobby McGee"
Me and Bobby McGee - Roger Miller.jpg
Single by Roger Miller
from the album Roger Miller
B-side"I'm Gonna Teach My Heart to Bend (Instead of Breaking)"
ReleasedJuly 1969
RecordedMay 16, 1969
GenreCountry
Length4:02
LabelSmash S-2230
Songwriter(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 American singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson and originally performed by Roger Miller. Fred Foster shares the writing credit, as Kristofferson intended.[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. Jerry Lee Lewis also released a version reaching number 1 on the country charts in 1971. Billboard ranked Joplin's version as the No. 11 song for 1971.

Other recordings of the song include those by Waylon Jennings, Grateful Dead, Loretta Lynn, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, Gordon Lightfoot, Dolly Parton, Olivia Newton-John, Johnny Cash, and Kristofferson himself.[2] (See below for a longer list of recordings.)

History[edit]

The suggestion for the title was a cordial challenge from producer and Monument Records founder Fred Foster to Kris. The titular character was named for a studio secretary, Barbara "Bobbie" McKee, but Kristofferson had misheard her surname. Kris explained that he was trying to convey the despair of the last scene of Federico Fellini’s La Strada where a broken, war-torn, inebriated Anthony Quinn stares up from the beach, at the night's stars.[3]

Narrative[edit]

The song is the story of two drifters, the narrator and Bobby McGee. The couple hitch a ride from a truck driver and sing as they drive through the American South. 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, the song has been recorded by both male and female singers with only minor differences in the lyrical content.

Recordings and notable performances[edit]

"Me and Bobby McGee"
Me and Bobby McGee - Janis Joplin.jpg
Single by Janis Joplin
from the album Pearl
B-side"Half Moon"
ReleasedJanuary 12, 1971[4]
RecordedSeptember 5 – October 1, 1970
GenreBlues rock, country rock
Length4:33
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)Kris Kristofferson, Fred Foster
Producer(s)Paul A. Rothchild

Roger Miller was the first artist to record the song and it appeared at No. 12 on the U.S. country chart in 1969.[5] Kenny Rogers and The First Edition recorded the song and released it on their album Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town in 1969. On the Canadian charts, Gordon Lightfoot's version 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.

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 it until after her death. The first time he heard her recording of it was the day after she died.[6] 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.

In Don McLean's song "American Pie", he "met a girl who sang the blues", referring to the Janis Joplin version of the song, where she and Bobbie sang the blues. He asks for some happy news from her. However, "she just smiled and turned away", referring to her death in 1970.

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly singles charts[edit]

Roger Miller version[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles[7] 12
U.S. Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100[8] 22
Canadian RPM Country Tracks[9] 3

Gordon Lightfoot version[edit]

Chart (1970) Peak
position
Canada RPM Country Tracks 1
Canada RPM Top Singles 13
South Africa (Springbok)[10] 7

Janis Joplin version[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Janis Joplin's version[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[24] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

double-dagger 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. ^ Lydia Hutchinson (June 22, 2013). "Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee"".
  3. ^ Campbell, Courtney. "'Me and Bobby McGee': The Story Behind the Song". Wide Open Country. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
  4. ^ https://www.45cat.com/record/445314us
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel, Joel Whitburn’s Top Country Songs: 1944-2005, Billboard, Record Research Inc., Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin 2005 p. 252
  6. ^ Hawke, Ethan (April 16, 2009). "The Last Outlaw Poet". Rolling Stone (1076): 57. Archived from the original on April 10, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 232.
  8. ^ Joel Whitburn's Bubbling Under the Billboard Hot 100 1959-2004
  9. ^ "RPM Top 30 Country Singles - October 25, 1969" (PDF).
  10. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". August 13, 1971. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  11. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  12. ^ "RPM 100 Singles". RPM Magazine. April 3, 1971. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  13. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  14. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  15. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles". Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  16. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  17. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. January 22, 1972. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  18. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  19. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, January 15, 1972
  20. ^ "Australian Chart Book". Austchartbook.com.au. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  21. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca.
  22. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1971/Top 100 Songs of 1971". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  23. ^ "Top 100 Year End Charts: 1971". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved May 30, 2016.
  24. ^ "American single certifications – Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved January 8, 2021. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  25. ^ "Lalla Hansson - Anna & Mej (Vinyl)". Discogs.com. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  26. ^ "Upp till Ragvaldsträsk! | Svensk mediedatabas". SMDB.kb.se. Retrieved October 2, 2016.

External links[edit]