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The Story Behind Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz”

Singer Janis Joplin died of a drug overdose in October of 1970. Can you believe that was almost 45 years ago? The very last song she recorded was “Mercedes Benz.” It was written in a hurry for a lark, sung a cappella, and only added to her next album after her death. It was a catchy tune that anyone could sing, and most people could relate to, since a Mercedes and a TV and a night on the town all cost too much money. Joplin first performed the song in August of 1970 at the Capitol Theatre in New York. Bob Neuwirth tells what happened.

On the bootleg recording from the concert, she says from the stage: “I’d like to do a song of some significance, now. I just wrote it at the bar on the corner, so I don’t know all the words yet. I’m going to do it Acapulco,” which had been my funny way of saying “a cappella.” I think she decided to sing it to further impress Geraldine and Rip.

Janis stomped off the beat and began belting out the lyrics, the way she had done at the bar. The band soon tried to fit in as best they could, and then they reprised the last verse. What’s interesting is that the second verse doesn’t include the “Dialing for Dollars” line. She must have added it later before recording in the studio in L.A., since it’s not on the Harvard Stadium bootleg either.

The story of how the iconic song came about is told in an oral history at, believe it or not, the Wall Street Journal. -via Metafilter


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I had started college that September. Janis was the only 'idol' I had ever admired and felt that she put her heart and soul into every song she sang. I was devastated when I heard she had died. I stlil wonder what sort of songs she would be singing if she were alive today. RIP, Janis. You have not been forgotten.
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