Roger Miller: “Me And Bobby McGee”

Posted: February 16, 2016 in THE CLASH of Cover Tunes
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Tune du Jour: “Me and Bobby McGee” – Roger Miller
THE CLASH of Cover Tunes: Johnny Cash vs. Grateful Dead vs. Syl Johnson
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Me and Bobby McGee was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster. It was first released by Roger Miller, whose version reached No. 12 on the U.S. country chart in 1969. Although Kristofferson had sung the song for Janis Joplin, he was unaware that she recorded a version for inclusion on her album, Pearl. Me and Bobby McGee was recorded in October 1970, only days before Joplin overdosed. The first time Kristofferson heard Joplin’s version was the day after her death. Pearl was subsequently released in January 1971. Me and Bobby McGee topped the charts, posthumously becoming the only number one hit of Janis Joplin’s career. 

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The Original

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Roger Miller:

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The Most Popular

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Janis Joplin:

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THE CLASH of Cover Tunes

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Johnny Cash vs. Grateful Dead vs. Syl Johnson

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Johnny Cash:

Grateful Dead:

Syl Johnson:

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Oh the disharmony! Much like Harlan County there are no neutrals here. It is your solemn responsibility to decide which cover song prevails. In other words … Which Side Are You On?!!? 

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Disclaimer: Votes cast from Florida may or may not be counted.

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Comments
  1. Cuspid says:

    After listening to all 5 versions I can safely say that Joplin’s version is easily my least favorite. In truth, I really don’t care too much for this song. So whichever version takes it in a direction most furthest from Joplin’s would get my vote. And that would be Syl Johnson, whose version I enjoyed the most.

  2. Arnold Plotnick says:

    I hate this stupid song, and I didn’t like any of the cover versions. The Dead’s version was the most tolerable to me, I suppose.

  3. Kerry Black says:

    I voted for Johnny Cash, as I usually do when he’s among the options.

    Good ol’ Kris Kristofferson. Very talented songwriter, but, alas, not the world’s greatest singer or performer. Some of his best songs were destined to be better known by others, as with this song. I finally saw him perform live four or five years ago. I see he’ll be turning eighty in a few months.

    Somewhat ironic that the first cover is by Roger Miller, who came to Nashville and wrote a number of country hits for others before making his own records, which failed to set the world on fire. He finally stumbled upon a couple of silly novelty songs that did, and became a sort of country comedian thereafter. I have an old “Best Of” that doesn’t include any novelty stuff, and I like it a lot.

    Miller’s career arc reminds me of that of Johnny Horton. Horton recorded some terrific honky-tonk for years in the fifties before stumbling upon a number one with “The Battle of New Orleans”, after which he attempted more in a similar vein. Unfortunately.

    The song mentions how they were given a ride from Baton Rouge “all the way to New Orleans”, in which they “sang up every song that driver knew”. Foreign listeners can be excused for assuming they are traveling a great distance, but you and I know we’re only talkin’ about a distance of about seventy-five miles or so.

    A member of my staff just pointed out my use of the phrase “terrific honky-tonk” in the paragraph about Johnny Horton. Readers who don’t like fifties country as much as I are welcome to keep a shaker of salt within reach while reading my remarks.

  4. RDubbs says:

    Man, not sure why Joplin’s version would be vilified. The phenomenal range of her voice is displayed in all its grandeur. Just a fantastic piece of vocals.

    None of these covers come close to Joplin’s virtuoso performance. Actually I don’t know why musicians have even tried. Johnny’s version is the best of our choices.

    Kerry I appreciate the detail of your post. I never gave a thought to the line about Baton Rouge all the way to New Orleans. Nice observation. I wonder why Kristofferson chose two cities so close in proximity when the context clearly suggests a great distance.

  5. Cuspid says:

    For the record, I’d like to say that I enjoyed Kerry’s historical insights and informative post more than the song. Thank you!

  6. Pete Black says:

    I listened to Syl Johnson first. I didn’t like the arrangement. I thought it was too clean and upbeat. That bass was bouncier than Chris Martin. I think grittier would have fittier. I think you could have gone into Blind Willie’s any random night in the 90s and see someone more impressive. I knew it would be a close one between esteemed Johnny and The Dead. I think John was predictably solid but when the groove locked in during The Dead version it won me over. Also, Syl sang “nothing ain’t worth nothing if it ain’t free”, which bothers me because that’s not what Kris was saying. I was reading about Dylan recording Nashville Skyline recently when the drummer Kenny Buttrey mentioned Kris Kristofferson emptying the ashtray by his kit. Kris was a janitor at the studio prior to his songs hitting. And it’s amazing how profusely people used to smoke.

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