Mercedes Benz (song)

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"Mercedes Benz"
Single by Janis Joplin
from the album Pearl
Released1970
RecordedOctober 1, 1970
Songwriter(s)Janis Joplin
Michael McClure
Bob Neuwirth
Producer(s)Paul A. Rothchild
A Mercedes-Benz 600 luxury sedan of the 1960s
The '65 Porsche 356 C of Janis Joplin, customized with psychedelic art
A Mercedes-Benz SL roadster of the 1960s

"Mercedes Benz" is an a cappella song written by singer Janis Joplin with Bob Neuwirth, and the poet Michael McClure. It was originally recorded by Joplin.[1]

History[edit]

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.[2] 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.[2] 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 new Mercedes-Benz 600.[3]

In the song, the singer asks the Lord to prove His love for her by buying her a Mercedes-Benz automobile, 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. It was the last song Joplin recorded before her death.

The song is considered to be a rejection of consumerism.[1] The song was recorded in one take[4] during a recording session 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.

Cover versions[edit]

  • 1971Elton John covered the song briefly on his American tour
  • 1972 – the song was covered by the Goose Creek Symphony, becoming their best-known recording, peaking at #64 on the US Hot 100.[5]
  • 1974The Supremes covered the song with 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 ...
  • 1994Bob Rivers released a parody titled "Honda Accord"[6]
  • 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
  • 1998 – Brazilian countertenor, pop and jazz singer Edson Cordeiro covered the song in his 1998 album Disco Clubbing ao Vivo
  • 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
  • 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
  • 2006Pink 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
  • 2009 – the Portuguese Star Maria Ana Charrua covered the song in the Portuguese version of "the Idols"
  • 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[7]
  • 2014MonaLisa Twins covered the song on their album MonaLisa Play Beatles & More
  • 2016 – a re-production feat. Janis Joplin by producer duo Hecchi & Kethmer as a single
  • 2017 – The Spanish Folk Metal band Mägo de Oz performed a live version of the song in the concert with the Symphony Orchestra of Mexico Diabulus In Ópera. Previously they made a version like B Side of the song "Deja de llorar (y vuélvete a levantar)".
  • 2018 – The German band AnnenMayKantereit published an a cappella cover of the song on their YouTube channel featuring the band's lead singer Henning May.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

  • 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".[9][10][11]
  • 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."
  • In the 2019–2020 Arrowverse crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths, the song is mentioned by Sara Lance as being the final song recorded by Joplin. In the show's fictional timeline, history was altered to make Joplin's last song "Little Robot Man.”

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[12] Gold 500,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Neal, Chris (April 2009). "Janis Joplin's Mercedes Benz". Performing Songwriter. No. 116. Retrieved March 27, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b Myers, Marc (July 7, 2015). "The Story Behind Janis Joplin's 'Mercedes Benz'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 7, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ See Womack, Bobby; Ashton, Robert (2006). Midnight Mover: Autobiography. John Blake Publishing. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. 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.' CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "Pearl album by Janis Joplin". SuperSeventies.com. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955-2012. Record Research. p. 348. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "Honda Accord". BobRivers.com. September 6, 2003. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  7. ^ Masha (September 22, 2012). "Janis Joplin – Mercedes Benz (Cover by Masha)". YouTube. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  8. ^ AnnenMayKantereit (April 14, 2018). "Mercedes Benz (Cover)". YouTube. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  9. ^ "Estelle x David Banner x Daley – Making Of The New "Benz" Song: Behind The Scenes Video". Freshness Magazine. April 14, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  10. ^ "Music project by the magazine BLAG – inspired by Janis Joplin: Estelle, David Banner and Daley create a new Mercedes song". Daimler.com. Archived from the original on December 5, 2014. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  11. ^ Mercedes-Benz USA (April 14, 2011). "Artists Estelle, David Banner and Daley with BLAG Magazine Create "Benz" Inspired by Janis Joplin". PR Newswire. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  12. ^ "American single certifications – Janis Joplin – Mercedes Benz". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved January 8, 2021. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH.