Rewind: Janis Joplin—“Me And Bobby McGee” (1969)

By Emily Powers

With a certain twang in her natural rasp, “Me and Bobby McGee” strays from Janis Joplin’s natural rhythm and blues and borders the country genre. Although it’s a number one hit in the charts, I have always viewed this track as a story before a song. A Kerouac-esque love epic; a road trip that defines a generation of couples.

The lyricist, Kris Kristofferson, was inspired by Federico Fellini’s film La Strada. The 1954 film translates to “The Road” and follows a circus couple who travels the Italian countryside.

Kristofferson also pulls from his own struggles. In the Gulf of Mexico, amidst his grief and alcoholism, he creates perhaps the greatest line of the song. He says, “It looked like I’d trashed my act. But there was something liberating about it. By not having to live up to people’s expectations, I was somehow free.” It was through that darkness that he pens “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

There is a great comfort in Kristofferson’s poetry and Janis’ growl. I discovered this track while traveling through Louisiana a few years back. I must say there is nothing more charming than sitting on a hotel bed and hearing what it is to be “busted flat in Baton Rouge.”

Janis died of a heroin overdose before the hit was released on her last solo album Pearl. Her ashes were scattered off the coast of California, leaving behind only her effortless music and eternal impact.


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