Mercedes Benz (song)
|Single by Janis Joplin|
|from the album Pearl|
|Recorded||October 1, 1970|
|Producer(s)||Paul A. Rothchild|
"Mercedes Benz" is an a cappella song written by singer Janis Joplin with the poets Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth, and originally recorded by Joplin. In the song, the singer asks the Lord to prove His love for her by buying her a Mercedes-Benz, a color TV, and a "night on the town." There is also a reference to Dialing for Dollars, a franchised format local television program, which required one to be watching the show to win when the show called your phone number, hence the singer's need for a TV.
The song's lyrics were written at Vahsen's, a Port Chester, New York bar, on August 8, 1970 during an impromptu poetry jam between Joplin and songwriter Bob Neuwirth. The lyrics were inspired by the first line of a song written by San Francisco beat poet Michael McClure, "Come on, God, and buy me a Mercedes Benz." Joplin heard it sung by a friend of McClure's, and she began to sing it, too. At the Port Chester bar, Joplin sang the line a few times and began riffing on the McClure lyrics, while Neuwirth copied the new lyrics onto bar napkins, which he kept for years. She sang the new version for the first time that night at her concert at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester.
The song was recorded in one take on October 1, 1970. These were the last tracks Joplin ever recorded; she died three days later, on October 4. The song appeared on the album Pearl, released in 1971. The song title, as listed on that album, contains no hyphen although the actual automobile brand name is hyphenated.
In 2003, Joplin's recording was remixed, adding a beat and a background melody. The remixed version was included on collections of Joplin's greatest hits.
- 1971 – Elton John covered the song briefly on his American tour
- 1972 – the song was covered by the Goose Creek Symphony, becoming their best-known recording
- 1974 – The Supremes covered the song in create their own lyrics, with all four members (Cindy Birdsong, Mary Wilson and Scherrie Payne) singing on lead
- 1976 – the song was covered by the British folk group Swan Arcade
- 1980 – German singer-songwriter Klaus Lage recorded a version in German language
- 1992 – French-Canadian pop star Mitsou recorded a dance-pop version of the song on her EP Heading West
- 1992 – Norwegian vocal pop group Bjelleklang recorded a Norwegian-language version on their album Holiholihooo ...
- 1994 – Bob Rivers released a parody titled "Honda Accord"
- 1994 – a cover version was made by a Dutch pop/dance band T-Spoon
- 1995 – a version was included on Gina Jeffreys' album, The Flame
- 1996 – a live cover version was included on the Concrete Blonde compilation Recollection: The Best of Concrete Blonde
- 1997 – American blues artist Taj Mahal covered the song for the compilation album Blues Down Deep: Songs of Janis Joplin
- 1997 – a cover version was made by the Italian pop/dance singer Spagna, and included as a ghost track on her album Indivisibili
- 1998 – former Guns N' Roses rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke included a version of the song on his album Rubber
- 1999 – the EP Humppaorgiat by the Finnish comedy group Eläkeläiset featured a cover titled KELA, the lyrics requesting for a moped, a submachine gun, a blow-up doll, a stocked medicine cabinet and for "many things truly awesome" from the Social Insurance Institution
- 1999 – the Japanese adult video star Miki Sawaguchi included a cover version of the song on her album Big Boobs/Watashi no Mune de Onemurinasai. Her version is also a capella, and sung in thickly-accented English
- 1999 – the Portuguese Star Maria Ana Charrua covered the song in the Portuguese version of "the Idols"
- 2000 – a re-make by Hubert von Goisern on his album Fön (2000)
- 2001 – the key line was interpolated into the opera Jeppe: The Cruel Comedy
- 2006 – Pink covered the song on her I'm Not Dead Tour
- 2009 – a cover version was made by Kendel Carson and released on her album Alright Dynamite
- 2010 – a version recorded by Dave Clark & Friends in the early 1970s was released
- 2010 – the song was covered by Jon Boden as part of his A Folk Song a Day project
- 2010 – a cover version by Jackyl on the When Moonshine and Dynamite Collide album
- 2011 – a cover version by Chimène Badi on the Gospel & Soul album
- 2011 – hip-hop artist G-Eazy samples the song in "Mercedes Benz (The American Dream)"
- 2012 – the song was covered and translated into Ukrainian by singer-songwriter Yuriy Veres for the album 60/70
- 2012 – Singer Masha covered the song on her popular YouTube channel on September 22, 2012 
- 2016 – a re-production feat. Janis Joplin by producer duo Hecchi & Kethmer as a single
In popular culture
- The pianist Glenn Gould used the song prominently in the third and final radio documentary he made for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1977. The documentary, titled The Quiet In The Land, is part of what is often referred to as Gould's Solitude Trilogy.
- The song was used in the 1989 mini-series Bangkok Hilton and in opening of the 2008 German film Der Baader Meinhof Komplex.
- The song has been used several times in car advertisements. Mercedes-Benz used it in television commercials for their cars as early as 1995. The song appeared again in an advertisement which aired on February 6, 2011 during a Super Bowl commercial in addition to advertisements in 2007. Another commercial, for the BMW Z3, had the driver listening to a cassette tape of the song, frowning after Mercedes-Benz was mentioned, and throwing the tape out of the car after the Porsche is mentioned.
- In 2011, on the initiative of the British music and lifestyle BLAG Magazine, singer and songwriter Estelle, rapper and producer David Banner and the musician Daley composed the new song "Benz", inspired by Joplin's "Mercedes Benz".
- In a 2012 episode of the British TV Series Citizen Khan, the title character sings his own version when driving his yellow Mercedes. "Oh lord bought me a Mercedes-Benz. My friends all drive Datsuns. They are infidels."
- Neal, Chris. "Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz". Performing Songwriter. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
- Myers, Marc (7 July 2015). "The Story Behind Janis Joplin’s 'Mercedes Benz'". Wall St. Journal. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
- Singer Bobby Womack asserts in his autobiography that Joplin was inspired to come up with the lyrics after going for a ride with him in his Mercedes-Benz. Womack, Bobby with Ashton, Robert (2006). "Midnight Mover: Autobiography". John Blake Publishing.
We rode a couple of blocks while she fixed a tune in her head and then started singing. A line just spilled out. 'Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz. 'My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.'
- Pearl album by Janis Joplin, Superseventies.com
- Estelle x David Banner x Daley – Making Of The New "Benz" Song | Behind The Scene Video
- Music project by the magazine BLAG – inspired by Janis Joplin: Estelle, David Banner and Daley create a new Mercedes song
- Artists Estelle, David Banner and Daley with BLAG Magazine Create "Benz" Inspired by Janis Joplin
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