In Kristofferson's original lyrics, Bobby McGee is a woman. In Janis Joplin's hit version, Bobby McGee is a man. That certainly makes sense, at least in the time frame in which the song was written.
The song opens with the pair hitching a ride from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, setting the tone and mood for the story.
And was blowin' sad while Bobby sang the blues,
With them windshield wipers slappin' time and
Bobby clappin' hands we finally sang up every song
That driver knew."
After traveling from "the coalmines of Kentucky to the California sun," they finally part ways in Salinas, and the storyteller yearns to be with her again.
Well I'd trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday,
Holdin' Bobby's body close to mine."
The song closes with words about their simple relationship, a comfort zone that many of us feel with special people in our lives.
And buddy, that was good enough for me.
Good enough for me and Bobby McGee."
Roger Miller first recorded the song in 1969, topping at No. 12 on the country charts. But it was the legendary Janis Joplin's heartfelt version that brought worldwide audience and acclaim to "Me and Bobby McGee" in 1971, taking it to No. 1, several months after her untimely death It was her only chart-topping song.
"Me and Bobby McGee" lyrics
I'm including Joplin and Kristofferson videos of the song: