Me and Bobby McGee
|"Me and Bobby McGee"|
|Single by Roger Miller|
|from the album Roger Miller|
|Recorded||May 16, 1969|
|Roger Miller singles chronology|
"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, 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. Billboard ranked Joplin's version as the No. 11 song for 1971.
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."
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. - Kris Kristofferson
The song is essentially a road story about two drifters, the narrator and his girlfriend Bobby McGee (boyfriend in Joplin's version). The narrator speaks of travelling as vagrants, and hitching a ride on a diesel truck. They sing with the driver while travelling through the American south. The couple eventually travel to California, growing more intimate with each other and helping each other through the hardships of life.
However, Bobby gets tired of life on the road and decides to settle down "up near Salinas". She parts ways with the narrator who continues travelling. The song ends with the narrator regretting leaving Bobby, as he would "trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday".
Recordings and notable performances
|"Me and Bobby McGee"|
|Single by Janis Joplin|
|from the album Pearl|
|Released||January 11, 1971|
|Recorded||September 5 - October 1, 1970|
|Genre||Blues rock, country rock|
|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.
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 1971 and 1974.
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.
Chart positions (Roger Miller version)
|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
- 1969 Roger Miller - album Roger Miller
- 1969 Kenny Rogers & The First Edition - album Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town
- 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 (Kristofferson's version also appears in the film Two-Lane Blacktop)
- 1970 Bill Haley & His Comets - album Rock Around the Country. (According to the biography Bill Haley by John Swenson, Kristofferson gave Haley's version his seal of approval.)
- 1970 Sam The Sham - single "Me And Bobby McGee/Key To The Highway" (Atlantic #2757)
- 1971 John Mogensen as "Carsten Levin" Danish - single/ featured on album John (1973)
- 1971 Janis Joplin U.S. number-one single: parent album Pearl
- 1971 & 1972 Jerry Lee Lewis - album The Killer Rocks On/ B-side of "Would You Take Another Chance on Me"
- 1971 Dottie West - album Have You Heard...
- 1971 The Grateful Dead - album Skull & Roses, and numerous other live recordings
- 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: Baez also performed the song with the Boston Pops in 1985.
- 1994 Blind Melon records the song in the studio during a session in The Netherlands, appears on their B-sides collection.
- 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 Allison Crowe - album Live at Wood Hall
- 2005 Dolly Parton - album Those Were The Days
- 2005 Arlo Guthrie - album Live In Sydney
- 2005 Tori Amos live in Hartford 4 Oct 2005
- 2006 Dale Ann Bradley - album Catch Tomorrow
- 2007 Angela Kalule on the soundtrack of The Last King of Scotland
- 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
- 2013 Grace Askew recorded a studio version on the fourth season of The Voice USA after defeating Trevor Davis in the Battle Round performing the same song.
- Other artists
"Everything a Man Could Ever Need" by Glen Campbell
|RPM Country Tracks number-one single (Gordon Lightfoot version)
September 19, 1970
"Countryfied" by Dick Damron
"One Bad Apple" by The Osmonds
|Billboard Hot 100 number-one single (Janis Joplin version)
March 20-March 27, 1971
"Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" by The Temptations
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2010)|
- "Kris Kristofferson’s "Me and Bobby McGee" - June 22, 2013 Lydia Hutchinson".
- Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1971
- "Songfacts: Me and Bobby McGee". August 2012.
- Hawke, Ethan (April 16, 2009). "The Last Outlaw Poet". Rolling Stone (1076): 57. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
- "Anna & Mej". Discogs.com. accessdate: 10 June 2013. (English)
- "Upp till Ragvaldsträsk" (in Swedish). 1971. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
- New Yorker cartoon quoting the song
- A SecondHandSongs list of selected artists who covered "Me and Bobby McGee"
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
- FILM:ACOUSTIC - Kris Kristofferson performs "Me and Bobby McGee" and relates "La Strada" by The Modern School of Film at ArcLight Presents...