Study Guide

Me and Bobby McGee Introduction

Me and Bobby McGee Introduction

In a Nutshell

"Me and Bobby McGee" does in four minutes and 31 seconds what it takes movies up to two hours and books hundreds of pages to do. 

The song successfully condenses the typical American road story—a tale that has been told so many times in so many different ways that it constitutes its own genre—into a handful of verses and a chorus. It's a bittersweet story of nostalgia and longing for the American landscape that also deals with the loss of friends, lovers, and youthful dreams and the feeling of having nothing to lose.

Again: all this in four and a half minutes.

About the Song

ArtistJoplin, Janis
Year1971
LabelColumbia Records
Writer(s)Kris Kristofferson, Fred Foster
Producer(s)Paul A. Rothchild
Musician(s)Janis Joplin (vocals/guitar), Richard Bell (piano), Ken Pearson (organ), John Till (electric guitar), Brad Campbell (bass guitar), Clark Pierson (drums)
Learn to playGuitar
AlbumPearl

Music Video

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Influences on Joplin, Janis

Kris Kristofferson is an important songwriter in the legacy of country music, influenced by Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Waylon Jennings. While writing this specific song, he was influenced by Mickey Newbury and Frederico Fellini’s film La Strada.

Janis Joplin's career followed on the heels of folk singers like Joan Baez and Judy Collins, but her strongest influences fall into the realm of the blues and soul music. She was influenced by the likes of Etta James, Billie Holiday, Big Mama Thornton, Aretha Franklin, and Tina Turner, but Joplin at one point cited the "empress of the blues" Bessie Smith as her greatest influence.

Influenced by Joplin, Janis

On the other hand, these days it's hard to find anyone who hasn't been influenced in some way by Janis Joplin. The rock and roll legend has influenced artists as diverse as Stevie Nicks, Joss Stone, Leonard Cohen, Jerry Garcia, and Florence and the Machine.

Me and Bobby McGee Resources

Websites

Janis Joplin—Kozmic Blues
This is a fan-created tribute to Janis Joplin stocked with photos, lyrics, a biography, and plenty more information to satisfy diehard Joplin fans.

Video & Audio

"Me and Bobby McGee"
Of course, listen to the audio track here.

Janis Joplin: The Queen of Rock, NPR (2010)
National Public Radio remembers Joplin’s enormous contribution to culture and music, with the actual broadcast available for streaming.

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