Janis Joplin

  • Blues/Psychedelic Rock singer born in 1943 in Port Arthur, TX. Died at the age of 27 of a heroin overdose.
  • She labeled herself a misfit as a child. She was rebellious and dared to be different.
  • She recorded her first song on tape in 1962 at the home of a fellow University of Texas student – What Good Can Drinkin’ Do? It was a blues song that she wrote after drinking herself into a stupor.
  • She moved to San Francisco in 1963, just to get away from Texas. She met future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, and they recorded a number of blues standards. She got hooked on drugs and booze during this time. By May 1965 her friends persuaded her to go back to Texas, where she went back to college, and performed blues music as a soloist with guitar at clubs in Austin.
  • In 1966, her vocal style caught the attention of the manager of the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, based in San Francisco. The manager knew her in Texas, and he convinced her to move back to San Francisco. That summer, she began to perform with the band. They played at various venues in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver and Huntington Beach.
  • Their breakthrough performance was in June 1967, at the Monterey Pop Festival. Two months later, their debut album, Big Brother and the Holding Company, was released. It had 4 minor hit singles – Down On Me, Bye Bye Baby, Call On Me, and Coo Coo. 
  • In 1968, they were recorded at Winterland Ballroom, and 30 years later, the recording was released as Live at Winterland ’68. Similarly, a concert at the Carousel Ballroom was recorded soon after the Winterland concert, and that recording was finally released in 2012.
  • Later that year, they recorded their last album, Cheap Thrills, which became a mega hit. It included the hits Piece of My Heart and Summertime. The album was #1 on the Billboard 100 chart for 8 weeks, and Piece of My Heart peaked at #12. By the end of the year, Joplin left the band to go solo.
  • She formed a back-up band, the Kozmic Blues Band, and in 1969, she released the album I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! The album sold well, but not as much as Cheap Thrills. The singles were Kozmic Blues, Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) and To Love Somebody (written by Barry and Robin Gibb).
  • In August that year, Joplin performed at Woodstock. She only learned of the concert a few days prior to it, but she was advertised as a headliner. Due to heroin and alcohol, her performance was not her best, though the crowd loved it – of course, the crowd too was largely drunk and stoned.
  • In 1970, she formed another back-up band, the Full Tilt Boogie Band. The group toured, and in August, September and October, they recorded the tracks for the album Pearl. The album was still in production when Joplin died on October 4. The album was released in 1971, and was #1 on the Billboard 100 chart for 9 weeks, selling over 4 million records. Rolling Stone ranked the album #122 on their 2003 list of the Greatest Albums of All Time. The singles from the album were Me and Bobby McGee, Cry Baby, and Get It While You Can. Additionally, the a cappella song Mercedes Benz, the last track she ever recorded, was on the record – it still receives significant radio play today.
  • The film The Rose, starring Bette Midler, is loosely based on Joplin’s career. Originally, the film was to be titled Pearl, but it was fictionalized when Joplin’s family would not give the rights to her story to the producers.
  • Joplin had a huge influence on music in her short career. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and Rolling Stone ranked her #46 on their Greatest Artists of All Time list in 2004. Her vocal skills are amazing, and the energy she put into her singing is remarkable. Here is a video of a live performance from 1968, Piece of My Heart. 

1 thought on “Janis Joplin”

  1. Another artist gone way to soon. She was amazing! She put her heart and soul into every song. “Summertime” was my fav!

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