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Did janis joplin own a mercedes benz?

Janis Joplin was one of the most iconic and influential rock singers of the 1960s. She was known for her powerful, blues-inspired vocals and electric stage presence. Joplin rose to fame as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company before embarking on a solo career. She became a sensation after her explosive performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.

One of Joplin’s most well-known songs is her a cappella version of “Mercedes Benz,” which she recorded just days before her untimely death in 1970 at age 27. In the song, Joplin sings about wanting a Mercedes Benz luxury car along with other material possessions like color TVs and diamonds. This begged the question – did Janis Joplin herself actually own a Mercedes Benz?

Janis Joplin’s Background and Music Career

Janis Joplin was born in 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas. She had a difficult childhood and adolescence, feeling like an outsider in her conservative hometown. Joplin escaped to the West Coast in her early 20s, immersing herself in the emerging hippie counterculture of the 1960s.

She began singing blues and folk music in cafes in San Francisco. In 1966, she became the lead singer of psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. Their 1968 album Cheap Thrills was a huge success. However, creative differences led Joplin to part ways with the band in 1969.

She went on to have a successful solo career, releasing classics like “Cry Baby,” “Piece of My Heart,” and “Me and Bobby McGee.” Joplin and her solo backing band performed at Woodstock in 1969. Throughout her meteoric rise to fame, Joplin developed a reputation for her free-spirited lifestyle and struggles with substance abuse.

The Origins of “Mercedes Benz”

In early October 1970, Joplin recorded several tracks with her backing band Full Tilt Boogie Band for what would become her posthumously released album Pearl. On October 1st, she recorded an a cappella song she had been working on, a lighthearted tune asking the Lord to buy her material possessions like a Mercedes Benz, color TV, and diamond ring.

The song was inspired by the Porsche a friend of Joplin’s had just bought her. Joplin playfully turned it into a wish for an even more luxurious Mercedes Benz. She created the lyrics on the spot in the studio, singing, “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?”

Joplin modeled her tune after the a cappella harmonies of the popular 1950s/60s trio Peter, Paul and Mary. The song showcased Joplin’s ability to move fluidly between gritty, powerful blues-rock and lighter, more playful pop-inspired melodies.

Did Janis Joplin Herself Own a Mercedes?

Despite famously asking for a Mercedes Benz in her song, Janis Joplin herself never owned or drove a Mercedes Benz. At the peak of her career from 1967-1970, Joplin preferred driving vintage or used American cars.

Some of her known cars included:

  • 1956 Porsche 356 Speedster – This car was painted by Joplin’s roadie Dave Richards with colorful psychedelic designs.
  • 1965 Porsche 356c Cabriolet – Joplin bought this car after wrecking her Speedster.
  • 1962 Lincoln Continental Sedan – Bought after the Porsche was wrecked.
  • 1969 Shelby Mustang GT500

So while Joplin certainly drove some nice cars like Porsches, she did not actually splurge on the expensive, high-end Mercedes Benz mentioned in her famous song. Her lyrics were more aspirational than literal.

The Meaning and Significance of “Mercedes Benz”

While “Mercedes Benz” has an irreverent, humorous tone, it is also emblematic of Janis Joplin’s inner struggles and public persona. Asking the Lord for material rewards like cars and jewelry reflects Joplin’s own hunger for respect, compensation, and the comforts of wealth after growing up poor.

Beyond the literal lyrics, the song represents the counterculture’s shifting values as the 1960s progressed. Earlier in the decade, hippies idealized freedom, rebellion, and anti-consumerism. But by the end of the 1960s, once-idealistic bohemians like Joplin were burnt out, turning to material excess and hard drugs to fill the void. “Mercedes Benz” shows both Joplin’s wit and her underlying loneliness.

The song’s a cappella recording style gives it an intimate, vulnerable quality. Released posthumously after the singer’s sudden heroin overdose at age 27, “Mercedes Benz” poignantly closed out Joplin’s musical career. Its humor and distinct melody made it an enduring part of Joplin’s legacy.

Decades later, an array of artists from Aretha Franklin to Pink to Melissa Etheridge have covered “Mercedes Benz,” showing the lasting appeal of Joplin’s quirky, acapella ode to wished-for luxury.

Later Uses of the Song by Mercedes Benz

Interestingly, although Joplin never owned the car brand she sang about, Mercedes Benz did eventually capitalize on her famous tune.

In the 1970s, Mercedes used the song in European ads for its new lightweight two-seater sports coupe. More recently in the 1990s, the company incorporated Joplin singing a cappella in American television commercials for its C-Class coupe. They altered the lyrics, having Janis ask the Lord to buy American youth Mercedes Benzes.

So while Joplin’s plea for a Mercedes went unanswered in her lifetime, the song became cemented in pop culture history. It transformed into an iconic jingle representing luxury and style for the Mercedes brand itself in the decades after Joplin’s death.


Janis Joplin’s playful song “Mercedes Benz” showed the singer could transcend her raw, intense musical persona with lighthearted moments of humor. Asking God for material rewards revealed Joplin’s inner longings. While Joplin herself never owned the luxury vehicle mentioned in the song, it became an enduring part of her legacy.

Later uses of the tune in Mercedes Benz ads cemented its place in pop culture as an iconic jingle representing aspirational wealth and style. Ironically the song immortalized the Mercedes brand for the singer who never got to enjoy the car herself. “Mercedes Benz” remains one of Joplin’s most famous and instantly recognizable recordings, closing out her remarkable but abbreviated career on a uniquely whimsical note.


  1. Rolling Stone. “Janis Joplin.” Accessed September 5, 2023.
  2. Songfacts. “Mercedes Benz by Janis Joplin.” Accessed September 5, 2023.
  3. America on the Move. “Janis Joplin’s Porsches.” Accessed September 5, 2023.
  4. “Mercedes Benz: The Story Behind Janis Joplin’s Song.” Accessed September 5, 2023.
  5. ADAge. “Mercedes-Benz scores with Janis Joplin tune.” Accessed September 5, 2023.