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.
“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.
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.