Me And Bobby McGee

Album: Pearl (1971)
Charted: 1
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  • Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin' for a train
    And I's feelin' near as faded as my jeans
    Bobby thumbed a diesel down, just before it rained
    It rode us all the way to New Orleans

    I pulled my harpoon out of my dirty red bandanna
    I was playin' soft while Bobby sang the blues, yeah
    Windshield wipers slappin' time, I was holdin' Bobby's hand in mine
    We sang every song that driver knew

    Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose
    Nothin', don't mean nothin' hon' if it ain't free, no no
    And, feelin' good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues
    You know, feelin' good was good enough for me
    Good enough for me and my Bobby McGhee

    From the Kentucky coal mine to the California sun
    There Bobby shared the secrets of my soul
    Through all kinds of weather, through everything we done
    Yeah, Bobby baby kept me from the cold

    One day up near Salinas, Lord, I let him slip away
    He's lookin' for that home, and I hope he finds it
    But, I'd trade all of my tomorrows, for a single yesterday
    To be holdin' Bobby's body next to mine

    Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose
    Nothin', that's all that Bobby left me, yeah
    But, feelin' good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues
    Hey, feelin' good was good enough for me, mm-hmm
    Good enough for me and my Bobby McGhee

    La da da
    La da da da
    La da da da da da da da
    La da da da da da da da
    Bobby McGhee, yeah

    La da da da da da da
    La da da da da da da
    La da da da da da da
    Bobby McGhee, yeah

    La da La la da da la da da la da da
    La da da da da da da da da
    Hey, my Bobby
    Oh, my Bobby McGhee, yeah

    La la la la la la la la
    La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
    Hey, my Bobby
    Oh, my Bobby McGhee, yeah

    Well, I call him my lover, call him my man
    I said, I call him my lover did the best I can, c'mon
    Hey now, Bobby now
    Hey now, Bobby McGhee, yeah

    La da, la da, la da, la da, la da, la da, la da, la la
    Hey, hey, hey Bobby McGhee, yeah
    La da, la da, la da, la da, la da, la da, la da, la
    Hey, hey, hey, Bobby McGhee, yeah Writer/s: Fred L. Foster, Kris Kristofferson
    Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Comments: 62

  • Don from Dayton, OhYes, there is a couple different meanings but after she says "I pulled my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana." The next line is "I was playing soft while Bobby sang the blues." So that doesn't sound like she's talking about a hypodermic needle. But I guess we should ask Kris Kristofferson since he wrote the song.
  • Thomas Wenger from Fort Worth, Texas I am so disappointed that not one of the hundreds that read these comments wants to investigate my assertion that Janis tweaked the poetry of Kris’ version and improved it with the uncommon, but perfect word, “misalliance”. Please!! Someone confirm that this word is actually what Janis sings, instead of “Up near Salinas”.
  • Thomas Wenger from Fort Worth, TexasI really want to get an opinion on this variation in these lyrics.
  • Thomas Wenger from Fort Worth, TexasListening to the version of Bobby McGee on Janis’ Pearl recording, I hear the line “One day up near Salinas” clearly changed by Janis to a great alternative that I think Kris would appreciate,
    “One day a MISALLIANCE” !!
    I have heard Kris state that Janis had “improved” lyrics on other occasions.
    For anyone else hear this?
  • Gur Tirosh from IsraelHi George, I came across this article which explains how the song came to be and whether it is a he or a she. Enjoy:
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaI just read the full lyrics, & I see nothing in this to suggest Bobby was a he-she. . .
  • Randy from Houghton Lake, MiI tend to not really pay close attention to the lyrics of songs and after listening to it hundreds of times over the last 40 some years, I never realized that Bobby was a girl. I think it's because I didn't really like it that much until I heard Janis' version.
  • Dino from OhioThomas Jefferson High School (Corpus Christi, Texas) classmate of Janis Joplin and seated next to her any time they arranged seats alphabetically was former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmie Johnson. I think he referred to her as the "weird girl" in his autobiography.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhOther clues let you know Bobby McGee died: Janis sings "he's lookin' for that home and I hope he finds it." She's talking about that big spiritual home high in the sky, where all the pain and hurt of life can no longer touch you. She wants that for Bobby. Then she sings, "nothin', that's all that Bobby left me" because he died, and she's left with no home, no lover, no friend, no connection to anything or anyone.

    Regarding the lyrics being written that Bobby McGee was a woman: perhaps that's how Kris K. wrote it, but Janis interprets it in her own style, and we know for certain that Bobby McGee is a man in her version.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhHere you have one of the best bluesy rock'n'roll songs of all time. The words are quite easy to visualize. The lyrics are heartfelt and speak of emotions that most people have experienced in some way. Janis sings "I'd trade all of my tomorrow's for one single yesterday, to be holdin' Bobby's body next to mine." Most of us have lost loved ones, not necessarily just romantic ones, and have felt that way about them. The desperation of Janis' singing lends me to believe that 'Bobby McGee' died, OD'd, never to return. She blames herself because she 'let him slip away'. He 'slipped away', just like someone in an accidental overdose. That's why she's not singing about trying to find him or get him back.
  • Russ from New Braunfels, TxThe best version I ever heard is right here - It's sung by a lil known singer from Oklahoma by the name of Bret Graham - . When he does this with his full band & Gruene Hall is packed, it brings the house down every time. People rush in from outside just to see if what they just heard is real.
  • Ken from Chiangmai, Thailand
    As a fellow helicopter pilot, I had the pleasure of working with and getting to know Kris when I flew the Gulf of Mexico oilfields from 1967 to 1971. We even flew off the same platform, staying offshore for 7 days then having 7 days off.

    During his time off, Kris would rush off to Nashville where he was just getting to know Johnny Cash who took a liking to him and really propelled his career in directions that Kris had not yet managed on his own.

    It was a delight indeed to have met him while he was in that incredibly creative mode, even if I did have to cover for him and his lack of attention to flying now and then, and can only hope that he forgives me for setting him up with my wife's sister who turned out to be Hitler reincarnated..
    Ken - Chiangmai - 9Jun10
  • Rocio from Canberra , AustraliaJennifer Love Hewitt covered this song :) I LOVE IT!
  • Linc from Beaumont, TxJanis was recently voted one the top 100 best singers of all time in Rolling Stone Magazine
  • Dj from Denver, Cothis was the 3rd song I ever learned on the harmonica. I first learned "Dixie"--which took a few hours; it's actually quite difficult on a harp--then "Amazing Grace", which took a few minutes, then "Me & Bobby McGee". We had a party that night and I announced I could play the harp, played "Dixie", and was asked if I could play something else. I played "Amazing Grace". Afterwards, someone asked if I could play "Me & Bobby McGee"! My ONLY other song in the whole wide world, and I got a request for it!! I played it, then announced that was enough for the night!

    By the way, a harmonica is customarily stored in its case, placed in a special bag or wrapped in a bandanna; it's very important to keep it clean. It's also called a harp or harpoon in the South; the idea that the song is referring to anything but a harmonica is ludicrous.
  • Ken from Ruskin, FlThis song was written in late 1968.
    Listen to the song again but this time picture it to be about Bobby Kennedy, who died June 6, 1968.

    My bet is when writing it KK found Kennedy too long of a name to fit, musically, so he used McGee because it rhymes.

    We're talking about a Rhodes scholar here, so I expect the song goes deeper, metaphorically, than where most people try to find an answer.
  • Calvin from Columbus, OhI love this song, maybe because I've spent some time on the road and it really catches the feeling of that. Plus, "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" was a new concept to me. I've been working on it ever since I heard that.

    Everybody and his/her cousin has recorded "Me and Bobby McGee" at one time or another. The two versions that stick in my head are Janis Joplin and Charley Pride.
  • Joe from Rocky Ridge, MdSo incredibly beautiful, it makes me realize that the world really lost something when she died.
  • Judy from Horsham, RiThis song reminds me of how life was when I was growing up, and how when you are young you can be "free" of problems that come as you grow older. Judy Horsham PA
  • Marija from Karlovac, CroatiaI love the song and I think it is about being free, which is one of the most important things. When I die my family are going to play the song at my funeral because it is one of my favourite songs ever.
    Marija, Croatia
  • Marie from Ithaca, NyI heard/saw Janis perform this back in the 70s when she did a concert at Cornell University - she was awsome. This song is amazing to hear but even more amazing to experience her singing it in person.
  • Hype from Austin, TxThe irony here is that everyone thinks that Janis was so free. Her only freedom was in her expression and she put EVERYTHING she had into that microphone. Still, she was never free from her heart. She gave that to everyone else.
  • Andrew from Birmingham, United StatesI've always pondered the meaning for "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose". But I concur with "It ain't nothing if it ain't free!". What else I've pondered is "Who is Bobby McGee?"
  • Eb from Orlando Metro, FlThis song has always been a favorite of mine. I hum it and/or sing it to myself at least once a week. Why? I don't know, but it's just a great old song. Thank you Kris Kristofferson. :-) I always thought that it was cool that it could be interpreted by a male or female singer.

    Wikipedia says this:
    "Me and Bobby McGee" is a song written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, originally performed by Roger Miller.
    Some sources state that Gordon Lightfoot issued the first recorded version; another story tells how Kristofferson popped his head into the studio with freshly written verses as Roger Miller was recording the song. Regardless, Miller was the first artist to have a hit with the song, peaking with it at #12 on the US country charts in 1969. Lightfoot's version was a top 40 hit in his native Canada in 1970.
    By far the best known recording is by Janis Joplin on her 1971 Pearl album. Joplin's version topped the charts to become only the second posthumous number one single in rock & roll history (the first was "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding). In 2004, the Janis Joplin version of this song was ranked #148 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
    Kristofferson performed the song live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 and a CD and DVD of the event were issued 30 years later as Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival 1970.
    In the original version of the song, Bobby is a woman; Janis Joplin, who was a lover and a friend of Kristofferson's from the beginning of her career to her death, changed the gender and a few of the lyrics in her cover. It was the last song she recorded before her untimely death. Kristofferson states he did not write this song for her, but the song is associated with her. Especially, he has said, in the line, "Somewhere near Salinas, Lord, I let her slip away."
    Kenny Chesney makes a reference to "singing Bobby McGee on the hood of my car" in Don't Happen Twice.?
  • Jane from Los Angles, CaI'm sure that when Kris wrote "I pulled my harpoon from my dirty red bandana" that it meant Bobby was pulling a tampon from her dirty vagina. Oh give me a break. How stupid can you get. Why would you even bring up something as ludicrous as that. Now every time I hear one of my all time favorite songs, I going to think about Bobby changing her dirty pad. Thanks Alot!
  • Charles from Bronxville, NyIn a recent interview:

    Kristofferson says. "I never heard her sing it 'til the producer played it for me after she died."

    What was his reaction?

    "Oh, it was very painful to listen to. I really liked Janis. She was a very bright, sad person, but very special and I loved the way she sang. When I was with her she was kicking the heroin habit and she was clear for the couple of months that I knew her. She said that if things didn't get better for her she was going to get back on it. And I guess that's what happened. But it was hard to listen to that song for a long time. And I know she was just tickled to death to know what my reaction would have been. She knew it would knock me out."
  • Charles from Bronxville, NyHere is the lyric:
    I pulled my harpoon from my dirty red bandanna, and I played it soft while Bobby sang the blues."
    It's a frakkin harmonica.
    I love that Bobby could be a guitar!! That is real poetry.
  • Nora from N/a, FlI love this song...I cry when I listen to it !!! I feel so happy when i listen to her !!! She sets me free inside ! "I'd trade all my tomarrows for one single yesterday"...what poetry !!!
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaIriswiglecutforth's ramblings below notwithstanding, I heard what is probably an apocryphal story about Janis and Kris: They were living together at the time she recorded "Bobby." She recorded it as a surprise for Kris. But by the time he heard it though, she was already dead. Like I said, probably not true, but a great romantic tragedy.
  • Iriswiglecutforth from Toronto, Ont , CaKris Kristopheson never had an affair with Janis Joplin. Arguning during the making of Alice (nor janis, nor lee, nor julie, nor audrey, nor johnnie, nor connie, nor Mrs. Rich, Nor edith, nor all the 100 names) live here any more. He always at the most antagonized all of the above which included Janis Joplin. But, if he jammed with Jerry Lee Lewis then there is some hope for him as a person. Nor did she have an affair with Ryan O'Neil, nor did she have an affair with Robert Redford. Janis Joplin composed her songs while she was fighting with Bobby Darin, compare the veins on her hands with Sandra Dee. In the song Turtle Blues one can hear Bobby Darin egging for a fight and asking Janis to step outside. The guitar player picks up the comment by the bar man, "no fighting" and you can hear the words interrpreted into notes on the guitar and one bottle breaking...a bottle that Bobby threw towards Janis but not close enough to hurt her. She was mimimcing Bobby's bad grammer and the sound of his voice to rattle him and he was rattled and he had a severe heart attack and Janis decided not to sing anymore dying instead by her own pen and not by alcohol. Audrey Hepburn 1 did the same with Holly Golightly and Truman Capote. And Janis may have composed the song Saying Goodbye to Sandra Dee, not that Sandra died, but that the character of Sandra died with Janis in October 1970. It just took longer for her to kill off the Sandra character and janis may have added her input into the song Drowning Mona in Drowning Mona and she may or may not be Amy who composed the song, Bury me, Bury Me, Bury Me...but bury me in your own hands...aboriginal theme song and she may or may not have been the female washing the car. But, She never had an affair with Kris. He probably said that, if in fact, it was him, because he knew it would piss her off.
  • Clare from Dallas, Txteh comment on the hypodermic needle isn't what is meant in teh song. harpoon is southeast texas name for a harmonica, so yeah. just saying.
  • Dave from New Orleans, LaMaybe Bobby McGee was one of those morphodites. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.
  • Dave from New Orleans, LaAbout 30 years ago, a friend of mine swore that Janis was actually singing, "Bobby motherf****n' McGee" in the chorus. Every time I hear the song nowadays, I swear he's right.

    After all, Bobby's gone, and one could say that by the time Janis gets to the end of the song, she's starting to feel angry and scorned because of the loss. Listen carefully.

    Or does everyone already know this?

    I always thought Janis was hot... in a, well, hot sort of way. Always wondered what she'd be doing now, had she lived.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdOne of the 60s/70s greatest songs, IMHO. I get so tired of it, I don't do it for years; then I happen to pick it up again, and it's just like new. Been recorded by half the singers in history, it seems. Clearly adaptable to either gender with a simple change of pronouns, maybe intentionally, maybe not. I think Kris was probably smart about that.

    J.D. in Detroit ("Don't forget the Motor City!" -- but that's another song...):
    Funny you should mention Gordon Lightfoot. Thereby hangs another part of the tale of this song.

    I first heard the song (whether this was the first national performance I'm not sure, i.e., whether it happened just before or just after Kris released his recording) when Kris appeared on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, ca 1970-71. Tommy S. intro'd Kris, who then sang it solo with only acoustic guitar. The whole effect was, he absolutely nailed it! -- Put away the instruments and go home to bed; nothing more could possibly be said.

    A bit later, I started hearing it on radio by Gordon L. Much later, I heard Dick Cerri (who hosted a folk/acoustic radio show for ages) tell the story that Kris had, right out of the box, turned the song over to Gordon, with the understanding that GL was getting exclusive recording priveleges. Gord's version started up the charts when, BANG, along comes Janis' version and blows it outa the water. Mr. Cerri relates that after that, Gord was no longer speaking to Kris.

    Personally, I always liked the GL version better (for one thing, he's truer to the orig lyrics; I esp. wince at Janis' omission of my favorite line, "Nothin ain't worth nothin, but it's free"). I never thought this song was quite 'Janis,' she's so dy-no-mite on so many other songs that no one can touch now that she's done them, and this one seems too far from that style; she really had to work -- maybe a little too hard -- to 'blues it up.' But I've come to realize that this song is all the more remarkable for its flexibility to come off A-1 by singers as stylistically opposite as Janis and Gordon. And my impression of the Janis version might derive from my first having heard Kris, then Gordon, do it in the folk/acoustic style. Others who know only the JJ version are probably spared this impediment to their enjoyment of a performance by one of the 20th century's greatest female song-belters.
  • Madalyn from Greensburg, PaBest song to sing along to and mellow out
  • Katie from Tuscaloosa, AlThis is a great song to listen to while your "getting to know" the person you love, and I don't mean that in a tacky or dirty way.
  • Guy from Newport, RiAs to the harpoon, the Graateful Dead's cover I think gets the original lyric right. It is, I pulled my harp on outta my dirty red bandanna. The harmonica then is the musical accompaniment for the singing in the truck
  • Greg from Victoria, CanadaYa gotta LOVE Pearl...she was ust so damned lovable!...not to mention her voice. I'm getting misty here..Janis Joplin(aka Pearl) was sooooooo good. Damn!
  • Lacey from Slippery Rock, PaI don't know if this is what is meant in the song, but "harpoon" is slang for a tampon and "dirty red bandana" could refer the menstrual cycle or a pad. Sorry guys, I know you don't want to hear that, but it's true. Whether or not it's what is meant I don't know.
  • J.d. from Detroit, MiShawn in Loganville,
    I don't know what it means, but I choke up every time I try to sing it, so it must mean something.

    Z in Montreal,
    I liked your tracing it back to Jimmie Rodgers. I get a nice ovation when I sing, "Waiting For a Train", along with requests for more Jimmie Rodgers. BTW, it is NOT on this site. I just wrote the lyrics into a Word file. Now, can the new kid figure out how to get it into the list?

    It reminds me of "500 Miles", and "In the Early Morning Rain" by Gordon Lightfoot. I sang the latter in Summer School for my Classroom Voice solo. I got a A+ for it, and many nice written comments.

    I think my favorite line is, "I'd trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday, to be holding Bobby's body close to mine." So Bobby can be a human, a dog or a guitar--I make love to all of them. I know they are what I will miss when I get put on life support.

    What is your favorite line, and what other songs are like this?

    J.D., Motor City, MI
  • Z from Montreal, CanadaThis sonng was influenced by "Waiting For A Train" by Jimmie Rodgers from 1928. It is a Hillbilly/Oldtimey style of song.
  • Allen from Dothan, AlJanis died just 4 days after recording the song.
  • Jason S. from The Other Side, MoJanis Forever
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScJames from New York. She does say "That's It" at the but she also laughs too. It's pretty funny. By she, I mean Janice Joplin.
  • Sailor from San Antonio, TxBobby is a woman in the song(written by a man) is pretty obvious if you read the lyrics. Obviously the gender changes depending on the gender of the singer.
    Anyone who has ever hitchhiked knows that a woman will get picked up before a man.
    No guitar is even mentioned.The "harpoon" is slang for harmonica.
    It was a harmonica being played while Bobby sang.
    They were holding hands while singing "every song the driver knew"
  • Barry from New York, NcYou can see a live version of this by Kris Kristofferson in the film MESSAGE TO LOVE, which is about the Isle of Wight Fesival in August 1970. As the sound system was feeble and various radical groups were attempting to disrupt the festival, KK was met with a an appaling reception from the audience. He is forced to abandon the stage following this number. Luckily, his return performance a few days later was better received.
  • Ross from Independence, MoThis is #148 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
  • Paul from Russell, MaI believe Kris wrote the song to a woman. In his version and every other male version they use "she", "her". The guitar theory is interesting but I disagree only because the lyrics say "Bobby sang the blues," and "Bobby clapping hands,".
  • Charles A from New York, NyFrom what I've heard, it's definitely about a guy. Although the guitar metaphor somone mentioned is an interesting possibility. All the lyrics suggest it could be both; however, the only thing I can say to refute the "guitar" claim is that she says "Bobby thumbed a diesel down", which I take to mean her man stopped a diesel truck while hitchhiking. Great song nonetheless...
  • Aj from Cleveland, GaI agree with Jasmin
  • Leah from Houston, Txi'm from the same place Janis was and that always interested me but now i know i absolutly love her ive listened to her songs im a fan for ever
  • Jasmin from Waterville, MeJanis Joplin had to have been on of the best female singers of her time..alot of ppl argue with me about this..but its just my opinon that she was..she is a great inspirtion to me..and well, like my idol..its a shame that she died when she did..and how she did..i wish more ppl would recoginze her and her work..does anyone know is "the rose" a movie staring Bette Midler was supposed to be about her?
  • James from Ragin' Rochester, NyOops! my memory is old and fading. Janis just says "that's it" at the end of Mercedes Benz. I was thinking of "BIG YELLOW TAXI" by joni mitchell on her "Ladies of the Canyon" album from 1970 where she laughs at the end. My apologies.
  • James from Ragin' Rochester, NyC'mon guys, doesn't anyone watch Austin City Limits or been exposed to Willie Nelson's many TV interviews? Kris explained who a Bobby McGee is to singers.
    Folk guitar players call their guitars a Bobby McGee. "Holding Bobby's hand in mine" and "we sang every song that driver knew" were just euphemisms for using the only friend traveling singers can count on.
    When it speaks of letting him slip away-He's looking for that home, and I hope he finds it, It means she had to pawn the only thing she had that was worth anything.
    I find it very funny that the lyrics posted at include as the last line:
    "I'd like to do a song of great social and political import.
    It goes like this:"
    That is what she says on the album to introduce the next song called "Oh Lord, Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz?" It is not part of the song.
    At the end of that fantastic sing-along number, she says "that's all Ha Ha Ha." Everyone should be required to know the words to Mercedes Benz as it is a hippie anthem on parallel with "Why Don't we get drunk and screw" or "Margaritaville", both by Jimmy Buffet.
  • Natasha from Chico, Caforever 27...
  • Rich from Elkins, WvKris K. and Roger Miller were good friends back during the 60s when they were writing songs and getting started in the buisness... This song is good and propelled K.K.s career.. but "Sunday Morning Coming Down" was Kristopherson's best.
  • Chris from Frederick, MdTo Thomas in St. Charles: Yes, Janis Joplin's version is about a man--but the soing was written by Kris Kristofferson, not Joplin. He sang it to a woman: Bobvby can be either a man or woman's name.He used female pronouns...and I don't think Jerry Lee sang it to a guy.
  • Janis from Port Arthur, TxI LOVE this song!My mum used to sing it for me when I was a baby!FREEDOM IS JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE!
  • Thomas from St. Charles, Mouh, the song is definately referring to a MAN. "He","His" stc. are male pronouns. I always just thought they were lovers.
  • Megan from Lambertville, MiLeanne Rimes remade this
  • Shawn from Loganville, Gawhat does this song mean?
see more comments

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