Janis Joplin fans either cringed or cheered when rocker-ish American Idol contestant Crystal Bowersox belted out "Me and Bobby McGee" to secure her place among the remaining contestants this week. Under the learned and wise consult of Miley Cyrus (sigh), the result was a notch or two above "meh." Not at all disastrous mind you, Simon and Randy gave it two thumbs up, Ellen and Kara shrugged and while we thought it a little too 4 Non Blondes-ish, to be fair. "Me and Bobby McGee" is a pretty easy song to mess up when you have Joplin's Birkenstocks to fill. American Idol = Love Doctor?
After all, a song about loving and losing works best when sung by a voice as authentically pained as Joplin's. Which leads to the obvious question: Who was this hitchhiking drifter Bobby McGee? The man who sang the blues from Kentucky to California, "slipped away" only to cause Joplin to famously "give up a million tomorrows for just one yesterday"? Losing My Husband, Then Learning Of His Infidelity
While it's been rumored he was Joplin's lover (the song was released shortly after her 1970 death from a heroin overdose) the song was actually written by Joplin's friend and lover, country crooner Kris Kristofferson, who casually dated the singer.
Honky tonk performer Roger Miller originally recorded the single in 1969, and while it would have been extremely socially forward had it been a Brokeback Mountain-like tune about two men in love, Miller's version was a female "Bobby." It's rumored Kristofferson's Bobby was vaguely inspired by Joplin herself. An odd, if not fascinating, musical triangle. Soul Mates: 10 Steps To A Spiritual Relationship
While Joplin's version of the song was easily its most successful as her biggest #1 hit, Johnny Cash, Melissa Etheridge and Pink are just a few of the artists who have also covered "Me and Bobby McGee."
Watch Bowersox's rendition below: