Janis Joplin, let’s face it, owns “Me and Bobby McGee”; a few folks know that Kris Kristofferson wrote it, and a small fraction thereof know that Fred Foster, perhaps better known as the producer of all Roy Orbison’s hits for Monument Records, cowrote it; hardly anyone knows that Roger Miller (!) cut it first. I suspect the reason for this has something to do with the fact that the story of Bobby, who vanished somewhere around Salinas, wasn’t particularly funny, and Miller, even then, was still doing stuff like “My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died.”
There would be other versions before Janis cut hers, by the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Sam the Sham. (Sam’s track, the B-side to the flop single “Key to the Highway,” is punctuated with tasty Duane Allman-esque slide-guitar licks; it’s reported by some that Allman himself played them.)
Still, you can’t touch Janis on the subject of Bobby McGee. And I have a feeling that the feeling is mutual:
It would be nice if we had more of this footage, shot in Canada on the road with, among others, the Grateful Dead. But then, it would be nice if we’d had more of Janis, period.