Bobby McGee Deconstructed

Bobby McGee deconstructed-

 

We start with nothing:

“Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin’ for a train”

We end with nothing:

“Nothing and that’s all that Bobby left me”

We’d give anything to do it all over again:

“I’d trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday”

This is deeper than just a typical little folk/country/rock song- Kris Kristofferson has hit on something profound.

An adventure starts in Louisiana rain and goes through “Kentucky coal mines to the California sun”. This is a song that can be appreciated by the broke majority in “all kinds of weather”.

“I pulled my harpoon from my dirty red bandana”

The Bandana: The symbol of the outlaw, cowboy or counter culture.

Harpoon: slang for harmonica …this is groovy man….the good ol’ harmonica and echoes of first person blues sung on the road. This goes all the way back to the origins of rock music and fitting that it starts on the edge of the Mississippi delta.

Pink can’t mess this song up- it is that good.

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

 

There are iconic lines in rock music, I don’t know how many (maybe a future post?) but I do know this one gets thrown on the rough draft and makes it through all revisions with no argument.

Freedom is a cool thing but this has me thinking a different way.

Freedom is the last option for the desperate among us.

Freedom is a benefit that remains when all else has been lost in America.

Or…whatever interpretation of this line you want to add based on your own life and experience….go ahead- try one-this line can take it. As in all great art—it holds up under all kinds of light and still shines in any darkness.

The Voice

Janis Joplin sings like a tiger escaped from a circus

Dangerous but beautiful- Sad but truthful. Tamed enough to perform, but still wild. I hear echoes of those Kentucky coalmines. I hear the brooding downpours of the Louisiana rain. I feel the California sun burning in that voice.

The combination of great song writing with this vocal instrument makes this an essential work. Without this song -Janis Joplin could easily be remembered like Mama Cass as just another casualty of the 60’s-

With this song she becomes a legend.

And speaking of legends-here is “The Killer” Jerry Lee Lewis with a version

And finally- I am hanging on to the hope that Bobby McGee actually did find that elusive “home’ when he/she (or both, whatever works for you today, we don’t judge at the cave) slipped away near Salinas.

 

Advertisements

Dude looks like a Lady? Not on this list of best 5 Androgyny Rock Interpretations.

Cover of "The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Star...
Cover of The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust

I went for substance over glitter for these classics. The gender lines get blurred and the yin yang smudges together for some of the best music produced in the rock era.  The glitter and high heels kicking you in the face is the proverbial tip of the iceberg when having a bit of free swim time in this part of the pool. The first couple I added were such strong works that I challenged myself to keep them all of the same quality. This date night went in a different direction than it started, kind of like my number 1 pick for this category.

#5

Your Song-Elton John

“What are you doing Mr. Cave guy, this is just a sweet innocent love song by Elton John?” And you are right. Elton John and Bernie Taupin were just sweet innocent kids when they wrote this.  The striking part – it is so innocent that it has no male and female parts at all. Like a toy doll with no bits that are going to make the kids ask questions. It has all the sexuality completely sanitized. A man could be singing about a woman- a woman could be singing about a man- it works with a man singing about a man and woman about a woman. It works with any combo deal on the menu.

#4

Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is one of the great records of rock music and David Bowie became an androgynous alien alter ego for the ages. Maybe some obscure bands were dressing like chicks before he did…but he smashed the doors wide open to let all the cows and horses out of the barn to go play in the fields and roll in the mud. He took it from

a “strange” thing and turned it into an “edgy” thing. The song itself really does not reference any gender blurring but it is impossible to separate the song from the act. You get the package deal with David Bowie.

#3

Me and Bobby McGee- Janis Joplin

Kris Kristofferson wrote this song originally about a woman and in the Janis Joplin version it changed to a man. Even the name Bobby can fit both sexes so it was not a big deal to make a switch. That makes something written from the male perspective get transformed into something from a female perspective. It gives it a weird toughness that Janis Joplin was made to sing.

#2

Angel from Montgomery-Bonnie Raitt

To write this song John Prine imagined himself as a middle aged woman doing dishes and gazing upon the ashes of a burnt-out life. Like an artist that freezes a scene in a painting; he gets all the colors and lines in correct coordination and perfection. I don’t care if you are a woman or a man- this song is powerful. As a man you feel bad about this woman and you should hate the man that drove her down this highway and hope you ain’t him…you should be affected by the emotion if you have anything at all in your soul that feels emotion. This song has a way of making people cry like Ray Lewis in a post game speech after a football game.

#1

Lola- The Kinks

“Well, I’m not dumb but I can’t understand Why she walked like a woman but talked like a man”

How in good conscious as a fan of Rock Music do you not make this the Number one song in this category?  And just like the naïve soul in this piece of music-How long did it take you to listen to the words and have that “Sixth sense” movie moment…Oh…man…he is a ghost!…I mean..Oh man, he is a transvestite! And how as a regular guy trying to write a music blog do I take so long to get to a song by Ray Davies…the quintessential everyman and icon of popular music…plus he seems  like just one hell of a nice guy.