Song of the Day #267: ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ – Kris Kristofferson

kristoffersonKris Kristofferson started off in the Carole King mode, writing great songs that were hits for everybody but him. So I thought I’d give him the spotlight today as a singer, too.

‘Me and Bobby McGee’ was a big hit for Janis Joplin, maybe the biggest hit of any Kristofferson song. But he does it a lot of justice as a performer. Here’s a link to Joplin’s version, recorded shortly before she died. She and Kristofferson were an item once upon a time.

This song contains some absolutely stunning lyrics, starting with that classic line from the chorus: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” But the whole thing is strong. I love that opening image (“Busted flat in Baton Rouge, headin’ for the train, feelin’ nearly faded as my jeans”) and this poignant line toward the end: “I’d trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday.”

One final note of Kristofferson-ity… I have to give a shout out to his terrific performance in John Sayles’ Lone Star as the legendary hardass sheriff Charlie Wade. Kristofferson owns that role with a gravitas and an air of danger that feels not just acted but earned. Reading that Rolling stone article, I understood why.

Busted flat in Baton Rouge, headin’ for the train,
Feelin’ nearly faded as my jeans.
Bobby thumbed a diesel down, just before it rained;
Took us all the way to New Orleans.
I took my harpoon out of my dirty red bandanna,
And was blowing sad while Bobby sang the blues.
With them windshield wipers slappin’ time,
And Bobby clappin’ hands,
We finally sang up every song that driver knew.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing’ left to lose:
Nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free.
Feeling good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues.
Feeling good was good enough for me;
Good enough for me and Bobby McGee.

From the coal mines of Kentucky to the California sun,
Bobby shared the secrets of my soul.
Standin’ right beside me, Lord, through everything I’ve done,
Every night she kept me from the cold.
Then somewhere near Salinas, Lord, I let her slip away,
Lookin’ for the home I hope she’ll find.
And I’d trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday,
Holdin’ Bobby’s body next to mine.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing’ left to lose:
Nothin’ left is all she left for me.
Feeling good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues.
Buddy, that was good enough for me;
Good enough for me and Bobby McGee.

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #267: ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ – Kris Kristofferson

  1. Amy says:

    I watched a duet by Kris and Judy Collins of this song yesterday, while doing my A Star is Born search πŸ™‚ It’s a great song, and he is clearly a talented songwriter. I’ve also always liked his voice. It strikes me as the voice not of a singer but a man who can get away with singing and be appreciated because of his, as you say, gravitas, and generally nice tone. I can’t imagine ever owning an album by him (is there such a thing?) but I certainly like hearing him when a song pops up in a film I’m watching.

    And, yes, I get the not so subtle reminder that we still haven’t seen Lone Star πŸ˜›

  2. Clay says:

    Now that is a travesty!

  3. Dana says:

    I must admit that I never knew he had written this song. I really didn’t know that he was primarily known as a songwriter early on. It’s interesting to hear this song stripped down from the passionate version we all know from Joplin.

  4. pegclifton says:

    I agree with you Clay that he was great in Lone Star; as a matter of fact, I think we saw it together, didn’t we? And while you’re waiting for Amy to see that movie, I might add that I’m still waiting for you to see Michael Clayton and The Visitor!

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