Listen to Janis Joplin Sing “Mercedes Benz” On Karl Benz’s Birthday

Janis Joplin

November 25, 2105 — Karl Benz was born 171 years ago. He created the first petrol-powered vehicle — widely accepted as the first automobile — in 1886. He called it the Benz Patent Motorwagen. He began commercially marketing the vehicle in 1901.

But it wasn’t until 1926, after the merger of the Benz company and the Daimler automobile manufacturing companies, that a car was actually called a Mercedes-Benz.

Of course, the brand still exists. It is one of the oldest and most respected car manufacturers in the world.

So in celebration of  Karl Benz’s birthday, we bring you the song Mercedes Benz, by Janis Joplin. She wrote the song with with poets Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth, Neuwirth was a friend of Joplin’s, and they were together in a bar, working with the lyrics of a song by Michael McClure. McCLure’s lyrics were  “Come on, God, and buy me a Mercedes Benz.” The re-written version made its premiere appearance at a concert that same night. 

The song is a gospel-style rejection of consumerism. 

Neuwirth would save the napkins they use to write their lyrics for years. 

Janis Joplin would later record the song. She sang a cappella, and the recording, made on October 1, 1970, required only one take. It would be the last song Joplin would ever record. 

She would be found dead of a heroin overdose on October 4. The song Mercedes Benz would be added to her album Pearl after her death.

Of course, Joplin did not drive a Mercedes Benz. She was usually seen in a 1965 psychedelic custom-painted Porsche 365c 1600 Cabriolet which a roadie for Big Brother and the Holding Company had painted for her. 

That car is going to be auctioned off in New York City on December 10th by RM Sotheby’s at their “Driven by Disruption” sale. It is expected to fetch approximately $400,000.

Janis Joplin’s life is celebrated in the documentary film Janis: Little Girl Blue, by director Amy Berg. The film opens on November 27. It is being distributed by FilmRise.

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