During the latest episode of CNN’s “Chasing Life,” Gupta recalls how Nyad marks the time during long swims:
You’d sing songs. And if I remember correctly, ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ 2000 times was eight hours and 45 minutes.
Dr. Gupta has a good memory (or a good researcher) because that’s just what Nyad said at TEDX-Berlin in 2012.
But Nyad interrupts to correct him: “1000 times,” she says, “nine hours and 45 minutes.”
Nyad has claimed that, too, always preceding it by saying that she sings the song exactly the way Janis did:
If I take a song like Janis Joplin’s version of Bobby McGee, okay? So if I sing that song, and I hear it exactly the way Janis sang it with her voice, her breaths, the guitar strums exactly the way I know it. And if I start from the beginning.… If I get to 1000 Bobby McGee’s just like that, it will be to the second nine hours and 45 minutes. (CSF/SPF presentation, Sep 2014)
But Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” lasts more than four-and-a-half minutes. Singing it 1000 times would take 75 hours.
I wrote about this and many more of Nyad’s math problems in “Unreliable Natator: Omissions, Exaggerations, and Lies in Diana Nyad’s Find a Way.” So, she corrects Gupta one more time:
I take my own version. . . . I would take Janis Joplin’s ‘Bobby McGee.’ I know that song very well from the first note to the last, but in order to get it to 1000 verses [sic], I curtailed it somewhat. I took a couple of stanzas out.
It’s a small thing, but I’m pleased to know she’s paying close attention.
Still, to cut “Bobby McGee” enough to get through it 1000 times in 9 hours and 45 minutes, she’d have to sing it once every 35 seconds. That calculation is also in “Unreliable Natator,” so she wasn’t paying that close attention.
Update, June 29, 2023: An astute reader pointed out that Nyad always uses “times” or “times through” rather than “verses,” as in “1000 times through.” The phrase “1000 verses” connotes something much shorter than “1000 times through,” especially when you consider that “verse” and “stanza” are synonyms.
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h/t KH and JA, who tipped me off about Diana’s “Bobby McGee” problem.
Here’s Diana talking about “Me and Bobby McGee”: