Me, Janis and Bobby

A memory rolled to my Facebook today from two years ago. It was a quotation by Janis Joplin for her 73rd birthday. This means today she would turn 75.

Never compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.
—Janis Joplin

I don’t know who bought it for me, but I had her Greatest Hits on a cassette as a teenager. I listened to it up and down and sideways, but never really heard. One song always spurred the loudest singalong, though, the last one on side A.

A5, Thom Hickey from The Immortal Jukebox would say.

A side-note. If you love music, and who doesn’t, and if you don’t know him yet, here is a man who knows and loves music and is not shy to say so. A favourite example is the post on saving the last dance for the one you love and Leonard Cohen.

Reading The Immortal Jukebox more substantially lately might have spurred this post: not the subject matter – his music is a bit different – but the style. Except that I’m not nearly as informative. What I like the most is something that Thom said in a recent radio interview: he never writes about anything that he doesn’t like.

Back to Janis. When it was that time again that I had to come up with an idea for a short performance at the end of our annual seaside holiday in Duba, Pelješac peninsula, Croatia, I waited till the last moment as usually to see what would stick. I must have been listening to the tape because the words started to get written down by themselves:

Busting down the batteruge
waiting for the rain
when the spiriting
fainting as my genes

In all kinds of weather
when the spirit is gone
yeah Bobby baby
hitting it on the whole world.

Internet was years away, you see, and my English has only just begun. I wouldn’t know Baton Rouge if it fell on my head. Ms. Salina Snow was another big mystery. As was red banana, since bandanna was not yet in my vocabulary.

I could understand the point though.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

Feeling good was good enough for me.
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.

Even though I know all that I’ve been singing wrong now, I still haven’t learned all the right words. On purpose.

My favourite part comes at the end though. Not giving you a link, sing it all together now:

La la la
La la la la
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la
Bobby McGee, yeah

La la la la la la
La la la la la
La la la la la la
Bobby McGee, yeah

La la la la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la la
Hey, my Bobby
Oh, my Bobby McGee, yeah

La la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la
Hey, my Bobby
Oh, my Bobby McGee, yeah

Well, I call him my lover, call him my man
I said, I call him my lover did the best I can, c’mon
sing it Bobby now
sing it Bobby McGee, yeah

La la la, la la, la la, la la, la la, la la, la la, hey
Hey, hey, hey Bobby McGee, yeah

La la, la la, la la, la la, la la, la la, la la, la la
Hey, hey, hey Bobby McGee.

I learned it as a child would, or a parrot, down to every syllable, to the last breath.

That first performance was a success and there were many others, most notably at a Peugeot owners’ meeting where I sang it on quite a large stage in front of about a thousand people with a friend on the guitar right after Adi Smolar, a rather famous Slovenian singer, who came to me straight from the stage, asked me if I was next, and went into a rant about how terrible the acoustics are and how you cannot hear a single note out of those stupid speakers in front. Thanks a bunch, Adi, I thought, went up there and started to croon, and at least nobody threw a banana.

I sang it for birthdays, at get-togethers in front of strangers, on special requests, without any change, just how I’d learned it back then, silly English and all.

And then, after a repeat not so long ago, mom tells me: “You sing it so well, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you do it before.”

You have, mom, you have. It’s all I’ve got. You see, I am a miracle after all: a one-hit wonder. 😀

Happy birthday, Janis. You’d go along great with my mom. And we’d sing.

A pre-2007 New Year’s Party – still smoking. Photo: Majerhold, with thanks.

15 thoughts on “Me, Janis and Bobby

  1. You are the best! This post just made me laugh and laugh. How gutsy of you to get up and sing in a language you were just learning and sing it your way. You and Frank Sinatra all the way.

    Liked by 1 person

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