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“Mercedes Benz” - Janis Joplin’s Final Recording

Music | July 9, 2018

CIRCA 1960: Photo of Janis Joplin (Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Janis Joplin was, and still is, regarded as one of the most successful and well liked female American rock stars of her era… the groovy era that is! Joplin was nicknamed, the Pearl, and rightfully so because of her talent and individuality.  

Janis Joplin rose to stardom after her exposure as lead singer with Big Brother and the Holding Company.

In 1967, after being discovered at Monterey Pop Festival, singing in a San Francisco, psychedelic rock band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, she set out to make it on her own; and that she did! It wasn’t long before she had her own backers and subsequently received offers to perform her magic; including a gig at Woodstock in 1969. 

Joplin was somewhat of a poster-child for the hippie, counterculture generation who struck out to prove that anything goes!

Joplin’s promising career was cut way too short when she died of a Heroin overdose at the young age of 27. Like many of her fellow artists of the time, she experimented and enjoyed that euphoric high that came from recreational drugs.

One of the epic songs Joplin contributed to American music history is, “Mercedes Benz.”

If you know anything about Janis Joplin, you have heard the song, “Mercedes Benz.” Likely, the most famous rendition of this epic song is the A Capella version that Joplin recorded after her back up band had left the recording studio for the night.

Unfortunately for the rock and roll music world, this was Janis Joplin’s last recording.

Mercedes Benz was a song that originated from the combination of Michael McClure’s poems called C’mon, God and Mercedes Benz. McClure set out to make his mark with his signature brand of Haiku poetry, back in the day. While he claims to have never, “made a cent,” on his poetry, per se, he hit the jackpot when Janis Joplin heard his work and approached him about making it her own to which he obliged.

Joplin and McClure reportedly each liked their own versions of “Mercedes Benz” best. No matter though; they both benefited.

Ironically, Janis Joplin drove a Porsche, which was psychedelically painted and actually became a piece of art.

“Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.”

These are 2 lines of the famous “Mercedes Benz” song. Joplin herself drove a 1965 Porsche, which is really of no consequence when you consider the meaning Joplin wanted fans to take away. To Janis Joplin, “Mercedes Benz” was more of a message to society that we tend to relate material possessions and money to happiness. She was attempting to dispel the mindset that money can buy happiness.

Joplin’s intended message was like a mantra to the counterculture generation, that it was OK not to conform and keep up with the Jones’.

Auto manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz eventually used the song as a marketing tool, in an attempt to capitalize on the iconic song.

If you know the lyrics to “Mercedes Benz” then you will get the intended message. Other iconic musical artists of the groovy era were Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Jimi Hendrix who all subscribed to the same theory. Because of their successful music careers, each of these artists, along with others, had become able to afford the finer things in life. The original message they tried so hard to get out had become a conflict, but they always attempted to keep it in check.

There are three credited songwriters to this awesome and historic song. They are Janis Joplin, herself, Michael McClure, and Bob Neuwirth. This was a group effort that definitely didn’t disappoint!

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.