New Video Celebrates 50 Years of Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Just days before Janis Joplin died from a suspected heroin overdose on October 4, 1970, the legendary singer-songwriter breathed new life into a now enduring classic, “Me and Bobby McGee.” Upon its release on January 12, 1971, her zestful rendition made history, becoming only the second posthumous single in pop music history to reach No.1, following Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” in 1968. 

On the 50th anniversary of the No.1 Billboard Hot 100 debut of the timeless track, Columbia/Legacy Recordings and the Janis Joplin Estate released the first-ever official music video for Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” on March 20, 2020.

The short film scrapbooks the journeying lyrics originally penned by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster. Over the years, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Gordon Lightfoot, Rambling Jack Elliot, and others have recorded the track with unique energy. But Kristofferson told American Songwriter, “Now you can’t think of that song without thinking of Janis.”

The new “Me and Bobby McGee” official video is part of an ongoing celebration and appreciation of Janis Joplin’s short-lived, steadfast artistry surrounding the 50th anniversary of Pearl—the artist’s final studio album. The record holds the influential American country-soul-blues-rock singer’s last recorded work up until her untimely death, just days before her 28th birthday. 

Colombian director-designer Sara Serna developed a multi-dimensional perspective and mixed media approach to her cinematic interpretation of “Me and Bobby McGee.” Serna worked with her frequent collaborator, Chilean art director Jko Sánchez, to create an immersive animated short film incorporating narrative, representational, abstract, and biographic elements illustrating the song through handmade collage, cutouts, and digital compositing. 

Some of the images in the “Me and Bobby McGee” short film may be seen in the upcoming limited edition book, Janis Joplin: Days & Summers – Scrapbook 1966-68, recently announced by Genesis Publications and the Janis Joplin Estate. During her career, Janis Joplin created a personal record of her meteoric rise to fame and the flowering of Sixties counterculture. Throughout it all, she collected posters, souvenirs, press clippings, photographs and records, and annotated them with her comments. 

Featured alongside are previously unpublished items from her personal archive, including letters she wrote home to her family and a preceding scrapbook from her senior high school years, 1956-59. Written by the people who really knew Janis and those inspired by her, the book’s in-depth text provides a new perspective on the luminary’s abbreviated reign. Janis Joplin: Days & Summers – Scrapbook 1966-68 will be published June 10 and is available to preorder.

Watch the 50th Anniversary celebration of Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” below. 

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