The Epic Story Behind Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee”

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Janis Joplin and her final group, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, perform at the Festival for Peace at Shea Stadium. Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Embedded into cultures worldwide for centuries, music touches the soul of every person, and certain songs are associated with some of the greatest moments of people’s lives. One example is Janis Joplin’s epic version of “Me and Bobby McGee”, which is sure to induce a feeling of nostalgia in those who remember its release in 1971, shortly after her death. A bittersweet fusion of the art of storytelling and the great classic tempos of its era, this timeless classic has an intriguing history, which we explore in depth.

How It All Began

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Photo of Kris Kristofferson Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

This epic journey starts with Kris Kristofferson, a struggling musician signed to Monument Records who was about to go to Nashville for another job when he was briefed on a song idea by Fred Foster, the record label’s founder. The song was to be “Me and Bobby McKee”, though Kristofferson recalls thinking he heard “McGee”, so named it accordingly.

Half-heartedly, Kristofferson agreed to write the song, though he later admitted that it took him a long time to develop all the facets of the classic. Little did he know that it would be sung by the likes of Janet Joplin and highly revered among country music aficionados and casual listeners alike.