“I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday…”
Some things we consider ‘classic’ are overrated; some are classics for a reason. Janis Joplin’s Me & Bobby McGee is one of the most touted songs of the sixties. It’s been hammered half to death with anthem-of-a-generation boomer nostalgia. And yet, and yet. It remains impervious to cheap sentimentality. Through the hands of dozens of disparate musicians, it remains a gem. Most people consider Joplin’s bleeding-soul rendition the definitive one. Some prefer Kris Kristofferson’s twangier version. There’s probably someone in Sweden who thinks that Caroline of Ugglas absolutely nailed it on her Joplin tribute album. Whichever way you swing, it’s one of the greatest odes to lost love and road weariness ever written. Somewhat ironic that the idea first came to Kristofferson as a bit of a joke; “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.” Not even a good joke, but inspiration strikes in weird ways.