Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee

First Hit #1: March 20, 1971

It’s interesting how there can be a contrast between a performer’s image and the material they put together. Janis Joplin, partially due to her premature death, partially due to generally embracing a fairly wild style, has always appeared to be on the ragged edge of music. Yet, musically, her big hit has nothing to do with any of that. She’s definitely got a voice that can get wild if she felt the need, but this is dialed back a fair bit, and she’s able to keep the song sounding personal and intimate in spite of it being a cover. It is the kind of song that invites over-analysis, especially released so soon after the singer’s death, but I don’t think it would have mattered if Joplin wasn’t able to make those words sound important to her above all.

There is a version out there with just Joplin and a guitar, and it’s a bit better, as it’s timeless rather than steeped in early ’70s production, but it’s a good song that it works no matter how you hear it.

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