Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was an American singer-songwriter who first rose to prominence in the late 1960s as the lead singer of the psychedelic-acid rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later as a solo artist with her own backing groups, The Kozmic Blues Band and The Full Tilt Boogie Band. She was one of the more popular acts at the Monterey Pop Festival and later became one of the major attractions to the Woodstock festival and the Festival Express train tour. Janis Joplin charted five singles, and other popular songs from her four-year career include "Down on Me", "Summertime", "Piece of My Heart", "Ball 'n' Chain", "Maybe", "To Love Somebody", "Kozmic Blues", "Work Me, Lord", "Cry Baby", "Mercedes Benz", and her only number one hit, "Me and Bobby McGee". Joplin was well known for her performing abilities, and her fans referred to her stage presence as "electric". At the height of her career, she was known as "The Queen of Rock and Roll" as well as "The Queen of Psychedelic Soul," and became known as Pearl amongst her friends. She was also a painter, dancer and music arranger. Rolling Stone ranked Joplin number 46 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2004, and number 28 on its 2008 list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
Early life: 1943–1961
Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas, on (1943-01-19)January 19, 1943, to Dorothy (née East) Joplin (1913–1998), a registrar at a business college, and her husband, Seth Joplin (1910–1987), an engineer at Texaco. She had two younger siblings, Michael and Laura. The family attended the Church of Christ. The Joplins felt that Janis always needed more attention than their other children, with her mother stating, "She was unhappy and unsatisfied without [receiving a lot of attention]. The normal rapport wasn't adequate." As a teenager, she befriended a group of outcasts, one of whom had albums by African-American blues artists Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Lead Belly, whom Joplin later credited with influencing her decision to become a singer. She began singing in the local choir and expanded her listening to blues singers such as Odetta, Billie Holiday and Big Mama Thornton.
Primarily a painter while still in school, she first began singing blues and folk music with friends. While at Thomas Jefferson High School, she stated that she was mostly shunned. Joplin was quoted as saying, "I was a misfit. I read, I painted, I didn't hate niggers." As a teen, she became overweight and her skin broke out so badly she was left with deep scars which required dermabrasion. Other kids at high school would routinely taunt her and call her names like "pig", "freak" or "creep". Among her classmates were G. W. Bailey and Jimmy Johnson. Joplin graduated from high school in 1960 and attended Lamar State College of Technology in Beaumont, Texas, during the summer and later the University of Texas at Austin, though she did not complete her studies. The campus newspaper The Daily Texan ran a profile of her in the issue dated July 27, 1962, headlined "She Dares to Be Different". The article began, "She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levi's to class because they're more comfortable, and carries her Autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin."
Singing career: 1962-1965
Cultivating a rebellious manner, Joplin styled herself in part after her female blues heroines and, in part, after the Beat poets. Her first song recorded on tape, at the home of a fellow student in December 1962, was "What Good Can Drinkin' Do".
She left Texas for San Francisco ("just to get away from Texas", she said, "because my head was in a much different place") in January 1963, living in North Beach and later Haight-Ashbury. In 1964, Joplin and future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen recorded a number of blues standards, further accompanied by Margareta Kaukonen on typewriter (as a percussion instrument). This session included seven tracks: "Typewriter Talk", "Trouble in Mind", "Kansas City Blues", "Hesitation Blues", "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out", "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy" and "Long Black Train Blues", and was later released as the bootleg album The Typewriter Tape. Around this time, her drug use increased, and she acquired a reputation as a "speed freak" and occasional heroin user. She also used other psychoactive drugs and was a heavy drinker throughout her career; her favorite beverage was Southern Comfort.
In early 1965, Joplin's friends, noticing the physical effects of her amphetamine habit (she was described as "skeletal" and "emaciated"), persuaded her to return to Port Arthur, Texas. In May 1965, Joplin's friends threw her a bus-fare party so she could return home.
Back in Texas
Back in Port Arthur, she changed her lifestyle. She avoided drugs and alcohol, began wearing relatively modest dresses, adopted a beehive hairdo, and enrolled as a sociology major at Lamar University in nearby Beaumont, Texas. During her year at Lamar University, she commuted to Austin to perform solo, accompanying herself on guitar. One of her performances was reviewed in the Austin American-Statesman. Joplin became engaged to a man who visited her, wearing a blue serge suit, to ask her father for her hand in marriage, but the man terminated plans for the marriage soon afterwards. Just prior to joining Big Brother and the Holding Company, Joplin recorded seven studio tracks in 1965. Among the songs she recorded was her original composition for her song "Turtle Blues" and an alternate version of "Cod'ine" by Buffy Sainte-Marie. These tracks were later issued as a new album in 1995 titled This is Janis Joplin 1965 by James Gurley.
Big Brother and the Holding Company: 1966–1968
In 1966, Joplin's bluesy vocal style attracted the attention of the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, a band that had gained some renown among the nascent hippie community in Haight-Ashbury. She was recruited to join the group by Chet Helms, a promoter who had known her in Texas and who at the time was managing Big Brother. Helms brought her back to San Francisco and Joplin joined Big Brother on June 4, 1966. Her first public performance with them was at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. In June, she was photographed at an outdoor concert that celebrated the summer solstice. The image, which was later published in two books by David Dalton, shows her before she relapsed into drugs. Due to persistent persuading by keyboardist and close friend Stephen Ryder, Joplin avoided drug use for several weeks, enjoining bandmate Dave Getz to promise that using needles would not be allowed in their rehearsal space or in her apartment or in the homes of her bandmates whom she visited. When a visitor injected drugs in front of Joplin and Getz, Joplin angrily reminded Getz that he had broken his promise. A San Francisco concert from that summer was recorded and released in the 1984 album Cheaper Thrills. In July, all five bandmates and guitarist James Gurley's wife Nancy moved to a house in Lagunitas, California, where they lived communally. They often partied with the Grateful Dead, who lived less than two miles away.
On August 23, 1966, during a four-week engagement in Chicago, the group signed a deal with independent label Mainstream Records. Joplin relapsed into drinking when she and her bandmates (except for bassist Peter Albin) joined some "alcoholic hipsters," as Joplin biographer Ellis Amburn described them, in Chicago. The band recorded tracks in a Chicago recording studio, but the label owner Bob Shad refused to pay their airfare back to San Francisco. Shortly after four of the five musicians drove from Chicago to Northern California with very little money (Albin traveled by plane), they returned to Lagunitas. It was there that Joplin relapsed into intravenous drug use. Nancy Gurley was an enabler. Three years later, Joplin, by then using a different band, was informed of Gurley's death from an overdose. One of Joplin's earliest major performances in 1967 was the Mantra-Rock Dance, a musical event held on January 29 at the Avalon Ballroom by the San Francisco Hare Krishna temple. Janis Joplin and Big Brother performed there along with the Hare Krishna founder Bhaktivedanta Swami, Allen Ginsberg, Moby Grape, and Grateful Dead, donating proceeds to the Krishna temple. In early 1967, Joplin met Country Joe McDonald of the group Country Joe and the Fish. The pair lived together as a couple for a few months. Joplin and Big Brother began playing clubs in San Francisco, at the Fillmore West, Winterland and the Avalon Ballroom. They also played at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, as well as in Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia, the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Golden Bear Club in Huntington Beach, California.
Monterey and breakthrough
The band's debut studio album, Big Brother and the Holding Company, was released by Mainstream Records in August 1967, shortly after the group's breakthrough appearance in June at the Monterey Pop Festival. The debut album spawned four minor hits with the singles "Down on Me", a traditional song arranged by Joplin, "Bye Bye Baby", "Call On Me" and "Coo Coo", on all of which Joplin sang lead vocals. Two songs from the second of Big Brother's two sets at Monterey were filmed. "Combination of the Two" and a version of Big Mama Thornton's "Ball 'n' Chain" appear in the DVD box set of D. A. Pennebaker's documentary Monterey Pop released by The Criterion Collection. The film captured Cass Elliot, of The Mamas & the Papas, seated in the audience silently mouthing "Wow! That's really heavy!" during Joplin's performance of "Ball and Chain". Only "Ball and Chain" was included in the film that was released to theaters nationwide in 1969 and shown on television in the 1970s. Those who did not attend Monterey Pop saw the band's performance of "Combination of the Two" for the first time in 2002 when The Criterion Collection released the box set. After switching managers from Chet Helms to Julius Karpen in 1966, the group signed with top artist manager Albert Grossman, whom they met for the first time at Monterey Pop. For the remainder of 1967, Big Brother performed mainly in California. On February 16, 1968, the group began its first East Coast tour in Philadelphia, and the following day gave their first performance in New York City at the Anderson Theater. On April 7, 1968, the last day of their East Coast tour, Joplin and Big Brother performed with Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Paul Butterfield, and Elvin Bishop at the "Wake for Martin Luther King, Jr." concert in New York.
Live at Winterland '68, recorded at the Winterland Ballroom on April 12 and 13, 1968, features Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company at the height of their mutual career working through a selection of tracks from their albums. A recording became available to the public for the first time in 1998 when Sony Music Entertainment released the compact disc. One month later, Owsley Stanley recorded them at the Carousel Ballroom, released as Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968 in 2012. In early 1968, Joplin and Big Brother made their nationwide television debut on The Dick Cavett Show, an ABC daytime variety show hosted by Dick Cavett. Shortly thereafter, network employees wiped the videotape. Over the next two years, she made three appearances on the primetime Cavett program, and all were preserved. By 1968, the band was being billed as "Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company", and the media coverage given to Joplin generated resentment within the band. The other members of Big Brother thought that Joplin was on a "star trip", while others were telling Joplin that Big Brother was a terrible band and that she ought to dump them. Time magazine called Joplin "probably the most powerful singer to emerge from the white rock movement", and Richard Goldstein wrote for the May 1968 issue of Vogue magazine that Joplin was "the most staggering leading woman in rock... she slinks like tar, scowls like war... clutching the knees of a final stanza, begging it not to leave... Janis Joplin can sing the chic off any listener."
For her first major studio recording, Janis played a major role in the arrangement and production of the recordings that would become Big Brother and the Holding Company's second album, Cheap Thrills. During the recording, Joplin was said to be the first person to enter the studio and the last person to leave. Footage of Joplin and the band in the studio shows Joplin in great form and taking charge during the recording for "Summertime". The album featured a cover design by counterculture cartoonist Robert Crumb. Although Cheap Thrills sounded as if it consisted of concert recordings, like on "Combination of the Two" and "I Need a Man to Love", only "Ball and Chain" was actually recorded in front of a paying audience; the rest of the tracks were studio recordings. The album had a raw quality, including the sound of a cocktail glass breaking and the broken shards being swept away during the song "Turtle Blues". Cheap Thrills produced very popular hits with "Piece of My Heart" and "Summertime". Together with the premiere of the documentary film Monterey Pop at New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on December 26, 1968, the album launched Joplin's successful, albeit short, musical career. Cheap Thrills reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart eight weeks after its release, remaining for eight (nonconsecutive) weeks. The album was certified gold at release and sold over a million copies in the first month of its release. The lead single from the album, "Piece of My Heart", reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1968.
The band made another East Coast tour during July–August 1968, performing at the Columbia Records convention in Puerto Rico and the Newport Folk Festival. After returning to San Francisco for two hometown shows at the Palace of Fine Arts Festival on August 31 and September 1, Joplin announced that she would be leaving Big Brother. On September 14, 1968, culminating a three-night final gig together at Fillmore West, fans thronged to a concert that Bill Graham (promoter) publicized as the last official concert of Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company. The opening acts on this night were Chicago (then still called Chicago Transit Authority) and Santana. But the band toured the United States that fall. Two performances at a roller rink in Alexandria, Virginia, at a time when the Washington, D.C. area's hard rock scene was in its infancy, were reviewed by John Segraves of the Evening Star. An opera buff at the time, he wrote, "Miss Joplin, in her early 20s, has been for the last year or two the vocalist with Big Brother and the Holding Company, a rock quintet of superior electric expertise. Shortly she will be merely Janis Joplin, a vocalist singing folk rock on her first album as a single. Whatever she does and whatever she sings she'll do it well because her vocal talents are boundless. This is the way she came across in a huge, high-ceilinged roller skating rink without any acoustics but, thankfully a good enough sound system behind her. In a proper room, I would imagine there would be no adjectives to describe her." Later that month, October 1968, Big Brother performed at University of Massachusetts Amherst and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. During a November concert at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, bassist Peter Albin made fun of Joplin in front of their audience, joking that when she panted after finishing a song she sounded like Lassie. Joplin's last performance with Big Brother, not counting two reunions in 1970, was at a Family Dog benefit on December 1, 1968.
Solo career: 1969–1970
Kozmic Blues Band
After splitting from Big Brother and the Holding Company, Joplin formed a new backup group, the Kozmic Blues Band, composed of session musicians as well as Big Brother and the Holding Company guitarist Sam Andrew and future Full Tilt Boogie Band bassist Brad Campbell. The band was influenced by the Stax-Volt rhythm and blues (R&B) bands of the 1960s, as exemplified by Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays. The Stax-Volt R&B sound was typified by the use of horns and had a more bluesy, funky, soul, pop-oriented sound than most of the hard-rock psychedelic bands of the period. By early 1969, Joplin was allegedly shooting at least $200 worth of heroin per day, although efforts were made to keep her clean during the recording of I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!. Gabriel Mekler, who produced the Kozmic Blues, told publicist-turned-biographer Myra Friedman after Joplin's death that the singer had lived in his house during the June 1969 recording sessions at his insistence so he could keep her away from drugs and her drug-using friends. Joplin's appearances with the Kozmic Blues Band in Europe were released in cinemas in the documentary Janis, which was reviewed by the Washington Post on March 21, 1975. The film shows Joplin arriving in Frankfurt by plane and waiting inside a bus next to the Frankfurt venue while an American fan who is visiting Germany expresses enthusiasm to the camera.
No security was used in Frankfurt so by the end of the concert the stage was so packed with people the band members could not see each other. Another film was made of the band's performance in Stockholm featuring Joplin's interpretation of "Summertime". The Janis documentary also includes interviews with her in Stockholm and from her visit to London for her gig at Royal Albert Hall. After appearing on German television, the Kozmic Blues Band performed on several American television shows with Joplin. On the Tom Jones television show, they performed "Little Girl Blue" and "Raise Your Hand", the latter with Jones singing a duet with Joplin. On one episode of The Dick Cavett Show, they performed "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" as well as "To Love Somebody." As Cavett interviewed Joplin, she admitted that she had a terrible time touring in Europe, claiming that audiences there are very uptight and don't get down. She also revealed that she was a big fan of Tina Turner, saying that she was an incredible singer, dancer and show woman. Joplin and Turner also performed together on at least one occasion at Madison Square Garden.
I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!
The Kozmic Blues album, released in September 1969, was certified gold later that year, but did not match the success of Cheap Thrills. Reviews of the new group were mixed. However, the recording quality and engineering of the record as well as the musicianship were considered superior to her previous releases, and some music critics argued that the band was working in a much more constructive way to support Joplin's sensational vocal talents. Joplin wanted a horn section similar to Chicago Transit Authority's; her voice had the dynamic qualities and range not to be overpowered by the brighter horn sound.
Some music critics, including Ralph J. Gleason of the San Francisco Chronicle, were negative. Gleason wrote that the new band was a "drag" and Joplin should "scrap" her new band and "go right back to being a member of Big Brother...(if they'll have her)."
Other reviewers, such as reporter Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post, generally ignored the band's flaws and devoted entire articles to celebrating the singer's magic. In general the press concentrated more on her leaving Big Brother rather than the qualities of the new recording.
Columbia Records released "Kozmic Blues" as a single, which peaked at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100, and a live rendition of "Raise Your Hand" was released in Germany and became a top ten hit there. Containing other hits like "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)", "To Love Somebody", and "Little Girl Blue", I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200 soon after its release.
Joplin appeared at Woodstock in the late hours of Saturday, August 16, 1969. She performed until the early morning hours of Sunday, August 17. Despite her not even knowing of the festival's existence, the Woodstock promoters were advertising her as a headliner. She thus became one of the main attractions of the historic concert. Her friend, Peggy Caserta, claimed in a 1973 book that she had encouraged a reluctant Joplin to perform at Woodstock. Joplin informed her band that they would be performing at the concert as if it were just another gig. When she and the band were flown in by helicopter with the pregnant Joan Baez and her mother from a nearby motel to the festival site and Joplin saw the enormous crowd, she instantly became incredibly nervous and giddy. Upon landing and getting off the helicopter, Joplin was approached by reporters asking her questions. She deferred them to Caserta as she was too excited to speak. Initially Joplin was eager to get on the stage and perform, but she kept being delayed as bands were contractually obliged to perform before her. Faced with a ten-hour wait after arriving at the backstage area, she shot heroin with Caserta and was drinking alcohol, so by the time she hit the stage, she was "three sheets to the wind". Joplin took the stage following Creedence Clearwater Revival. On stage her voice became slightly hoarse and wheezy and she found it hard to dance.
Throughout her performance she frequently spoke to the crowd, asking them if they had everything they needed and if they were staying stoned. She pulled through, however, and the audience was so pleased they cheered her on for an encore, to which she replied and sang "Ball and Chain". Her performances of "Kozmic Blues" and "Work Me, Lord" at Woodstock are notable, though her voice breaks while she sings.
Janis remained at Woodstock for the remainder of the festival. She is said to have really enjoyed Sly and The Family Stone's performance, who came on immediately after her. Joan Baez also revealed in her autobiography that she and Joplin witnessed Hendrix's close-of-show performance from Joe Cocker's van.
Pictures show her backstage with Grace Slick the day after Joplin's performance, wherein Janis appears to be very happy. However, Joplin was ultimately unhappy with her performance and blamed Caserta. Her singing was not included (by her own insistence) in the documentary film or the soundtrack, Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More, although the 25th anniversary director's cut of Woodstock includes her performance of "Work Me, Lord". The documentary film of the festival that was released to theaters in 1970 includes, on the left side of a split screen, 37 seconds of footage of Joplin and Caserta walking toward her dressing room tent. Laura Joplin said in an interview that her older sister went straight home to Port Arthur following Woodstock. She was incredibly vibrant and happy after coming home and really loved the festival. She told her family how great it was, but her mother and father remained distant on the subject as they did not really understand the hippie movement.
Madison Square Garden
In addition to Woodstock, Joplin also had problems at Madison Square Garden in 1969. Biographer Myra Friedman claimed to have witnessed a duet Joplin sang with Tina Turner during a concert by The Rolling Stones at the Garden on Thanksgiving Day. Friedman described Joplin during this performance as "so drunk, so stoned, so out of control, that she could have been an institutionalized psychotic rent by mania." During a Garden concert where she got solo billing on December 19, some observers believed she tried to incite the audience to riot. For part of this concert she was joined onstage by special guests Johnny Winter and Paul Butterfield.
Joplin told rock journalist David Dalton that Garden audiences watched and listened to "every note [she sang] with 'Is she gonna make it?' in their eyes." In her interview with Dalton she added that she felt most comfortable performing at small, cheap venues in San Francisco that were associated with the counterculture. At the time of this June 1970 interview she already had performed in the Bay Area for what turned out to be the last time. Sam Andrew, the lead guitarist who had left Big Brother with Joplin in December 1968 to form her back-up band, quit in late summer 1969 and returned to Big Brother without her. At the end of the year, the Kozmic Blues Band broke up. Their final gig with Joplin was the one at Madison Square Garden with Winter and Butterfield.
Full Tilt Boogie Band
In February 1970, Joplin traveled to Brazil, where she stopped her drug and alcohol use. She was accompanied on vacation there by her friend Linda Gravenites, who had designed the singer's stage costumes from 1967 to 1969. Joplin was romanced by a fellow American tourist named David (George) Niehaus, who was traveling around the world. A Joplin biography written by her sister Laura said, "David was an upper-middle-class Cincinnati kid who had studied communications at Notre Dame. ... [and] had joined the Peace Corps after college and worked in a small village in Turkey. ... He tried law school, but when he met Janis he was taking time off." Niehaus and Joplin were photographed by the press at Rio Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Gravenites also took color photographs of the two during their Brazilian vacation. According to Joplin biographer Ellis Amburn, in Gravenites' snapshots they "look like a carefree, happy, healthy young couple having a tremendously good time." Rolling Stone magazine interviewed Joplin during an international phone call, quoting her, "I'm going into the jungle with a big bear of a beatnik named David Niehaus. I finally remembered I don't have to be on stage twelve months a year. I've decided to go and dig some other jungles for a couple of weeks." Amburn added in 1992, "Janis was trying to kick heroin in Brazil, and one of the nicest things about George was that he wasn't into drugs."
Joplin began using heroin again when she returned to the United States. Her relationship with Niehaus soon ended because of him witnessing her shooting drugs at her new home in Larkspur, California, her romantic relationship with Peggy Caserta, who also was an intravenous addict, and her refusal to take some time off work and travel the world with him. Around this time she formed her new band, the Full Tilt Boogie Band. The band was composed mostly of young Canadian musicians and featured an organ, but no horn section. Joplin took a more active role in putting together the Full Tilt Boogie Band than she did with her prior group. She was quoted as saying, "It's my band. Finally it's my band!"
The Full Tilt Boogie Band began touring in May 1970. Joplin remained quite happy with her new group, which received mostly positive feedback from both her fans and the critics. Prior to beginning a summer tour with Full Tilt Boogie, she performed in a reunion with Big Brother at the Fillmore West in San Francisco on April 4, 1970. Recordings from this concert were included in an in-concert album released posthumously in 1972. She again appeared with Big Brother on April 12 at Winterland where she and Big Brother were reported to be in excellent form. It was around this time that Joplin began wearing multi-coloured feather boas in her hair. By the time she began touring with Full Tilt Boogie, Joplin told people she was drug-free, but her drinking increased.
From June 28 to July 4, 1970, Joplin and Full Tilt Boogie joined the all-star Festival Express train tour through Canada, performing alongside Buddy Guy, The Band, Ten Years After, Grateful Dead, Delaney and Bonnie, Eric Andersen, and Ian & Sylvia. They played concerts in Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary. Janis jammed with the other performers on the train and her performances on this tour are considered to be among her greatest.
Joplin persuaded The Band, who originally did not want to perform, to do so telling them it was going to be a great party.
Joplin headlined the festival on all three nights. At the last stop in Calgary, Janis took to the stage with Jerry Garcia while her band was tuning up. She told the audience how great the tour was and presented the organisers with a case of Tequila. She then burst into a two-hour set, starting with Tell Mama. Throughout this performance, Janis went into several banters where she spoke about her failed love life. She finished the night with long versions of Get It While You Can and Ball and Chain.
Footage of her performance of the song Tell Mama in Calgary became an MTV video in the early 1980s and the sound was included on the 1982 Farewell Song album. The audio of other Festival Express performances was included on that 1972 Joplin In Concert album. Video of the performances was included on the Festival Express DVD. Her full performances of Festival Express exist and have been released on bootlegs but all footage has yet to be released. In the Tell Mama video shown on MTV in the 1980s, Joplin wore a psychedelically colored loose-fitting costume and feathers in her hair. This was her standard stage costume in the spring and summer of 1970. She chose the new costumes after her friend and designer, Linda Gravenites (whom Joplin had praised in the May 1968 issue of Vogue), cut ties with Joplin shortly after their return from Brazil, due largely to Joplin's continued use of heroin.
During the Festival Express tour, Joplin was accompanied by Rolling Stone writer David Dalton, who later wrote several articles and two books on Joplin. She told Dalton:
Among her last public appearances were two broadcasts of The Dick Cavett Show. In a June 25, 1970, appearance, she announced that she would attend her ten-year high-school class reunion. When asked if she had been popular in school, she admitted that when in high school, her schoolmates "laughed me out of class, out of town and out of the state." In the Cavett broadcast of August 3, 1970, Joplin referred to her upcoming performance at the Festival for Peace to be held at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York, on August 6, 1970.
Janis had been voted "Ugliest Man on Campus" by frat boys, when she was in university.
Joplin attended the reunion on August 14, accompanied by fellow musician and friend Bob Neuwirth, road manager John Cooke, and her sister Laura, but it reportedly proved to be an unhappy experience for her. Joplin held a press conference in Port Arthur during her reunion visit. Interviewed by Rolling Stone journalist Chet Flippo, she was reported to wear enough jewelry for a "Babylonian whore". When asked by a reporter during the reunion if Joplin entertained at Thomas Jefferson High School when she was a student there, Joplin replied, "Only when I walked down the aisles." Joplin denigrated Port Arthur and the people who'd humiliated her a decade earlier in high school.
Joplin's last public performance, with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, took place on August 12, 1970, at the Harvard Stadium in Boston, Massachusetts. A positive review appeared on the front page of The Harvard Crimson newspaper despite the facts that Full Tilt Boogie performed with makeshift sound amplifiers after their regular equipment was stolen in Boston.
During late August, September and early October 1970, Joplin and her band rehearsed and recorded a new album in Los Angeles with producer Paul A. Rothchild, who had produced recordings for The Doors. Although Joplin died before all the tracks were fully completed, there was still enough usable material to compile a long-playing record.
The result of the sessions was the posthumously released Pearl (1971). It became the biggest selling album of her career and featured her biggest hit single, a cover of Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee". Kristofferson had been Joplin's lover in the spring of 1970. The opening track Move Over was written by Joplin, reflecting the way that she felt men treated women in relationships. Also included was the social commentary of the a cappella "Mercedes Benz", written by Joplin, Bob Neuwirth and Beat poets Michael McClure. The track on the album features the first and only take that Joplin recorded. The track Buried Alive In The Blues, to which Joplin had been scheduled to add her vocals on the day she was found dead, was included as an instrumental. In 2003, Pearl was ranked No. 122 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Joplin checked into the Landmark Motor Hotel on August 24, 1970, which was located in Hollywood Heights near Sunset Sound Recorders where she began rehearsing and recording her album. During the sessions, Joplin continued a relationship with Seth Morgan, a 21-year-old UC Berkeley student, cocaine dealer and future novelist who had visited her new home in Larkspur, California several times in July and August. She and Morgan became engaged to be married in early September even though he visited Sunset Sound Recorders for just eight of the many sessions when Joplin worked, much to her dismay. Morgan told biographer Myra Friedman after Joplin's death that as a non-musician he had felt excluded while in the studio. He stayed at Joplin's Larkspur home for days at a time while she stayed alone at the Landmark, although several times she visited Larkspur to be with him and to check the progress of renovations she was having done on the house. She told her construction crew to design a carport to be shaped like a flying saucer, according to biographer Ellis Amburn, and they poured the concrete foundation for it the day before she died.
Peggy Caserta claimed in her 1973 book Going Down With Janis that she and Joplin had decided mutually in April 1970 to stay away from each other to avoid enabling each other's drug use. Caserta, a former Delta Air Lines stewardess and owner of one of the first clothing boutiques in the Haight Ashbury, said that by September 1970 she had resorted to smuggling marijuana throughout California and she checked into the Landmark that month because it attracted drug users. Joplin learned of Caserta's presence in Los Angeles and staying at the same hotel from a heroin dealer who made deliveries to the Landmark. Joplin begged Caserta for heroin and when she refused, Joplin reportedly admonished her by saying `Don't think if you can get it, I can't get it,' and within a few days became a regular customer of that heroin dealer.
Joplin's manager Albert Grossman and his assistant Myra Friedman had taken part in an intervention with Joplin the previous winter. While they worked at Grossman's New York office during the Pearl sessions, they knew Joplin was staying at a Los Angeles hotel but did not know it attracted drug users and dealers.
On September 26, 1970, Joplin recorded vocals for "Half Moon" and "Cry Baby". Then Full Tilt Boogie recorded the instrumental track for "Buried Alive In The Blues". The session ended with Joplin, organist Ken Pearson and drummer Clark Pierson making a special one-minute recording as a birthday gift to John Lennon. Joplin was among several singers who had been contacted, or whose management had been contacted, by Yoko Ono with a request for a taped greeting for Lennon's 30th birthday, which was October 9. Joplin, Pearson and Pierson chose the Dale Evans composition "Happy Trails" as part of the greeting. Lennon told Dick Cavett on-camera the following year that Joplin's recorded birthday wishes arrived at his home after her death.
The last recording Joplin completed was on October 1, 1970 – "Mercedes Benz". On Saturday, October 3, Joplin visited Sunset Sound Recorders to listen to the instrumental track for Nick Gravenites' song Buried Alive in the Blues, which the band had recorded one week earlier. She and Paul Rothchild agreed she would record the vocal the following day. At some point on Saturday, she learned by telephone that Seth Morgan was staying at her home and using her pool table with other women he had met that day. In the studio she was heard expressing anger about this and about Morgan having broken a promise to visit her the previous night, although she also expressed joy about the progress of the sessions. She and band member Ken Pearson went from the studio to Barney's Beanery for drinks. After midnight, Joplin drove him and a male fan who tagged along to the Landmark Motor Hotel.
On October 4, 1970, producer Paul A. Rothchild became concerned when Joplin failed to show up at Sunset Sound Recorders for a recording session. Full Tilt Boogie's road manager, John Cooke, drove to Janis's house. He saw Joplin's psychedelically painted Porsche 356C Cabriolet in the parking lot. Upon entering Joplin's room, (room 105), he found her dead on the floor beside her bed. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol. Cooke believes that Joplin had accidentally been given heroin that was much more potent than normal, as several of her dealer's other customers also overdosed that week. Peggy Caserta and Seth Morgan had both stood up Joplin the Friday immediately prior to her death, October 2, and according to the book Going Down With Janis, Joplin was saddened that neither of her friends visited her at the Landmark Motor Hotel as they had promised.
Joplin's will funded $1,500 to throw a wake party in the event of her demise. The party, which took place October 26, 1970, at the Lion's Share, located in San Anselmo, California, was attended by Joplin's sister Laura, fiancé, Seth Morgan and close friends, including tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle, Bob Gordon, and road manager Cooke.
Joplin's death in October 1970 at the age of 27 stunned her fans and shocked the music world, especially when coupled with the death just sixteen days earlier of another rock icon, Jimi Hendrix, also at age 27. Music historian Tom Moon wrote that Joplin had "a devastatingly original voice". Music columnist Jon Pareles of the New York Times wrote that Joplin as an artist was "overpowering and deeply vulnerable". Author Megan Terry claimed that Joplin was the female version of Elvis Presley in her ability to captivate an audience.
In 1973, a book about Joplin by her publicist Myra Friedman was excerpted in many newspapers. At the same time, Going Down With Janis by Peggy Caserta attracted a lot of attention with its opening line, which referred to her performing a sex act with Joplin while they were high on heroin in September 1970. Joplin's bandmate Sam Andrew would later describe Caserta as "halfway between a groupie and a friend". According to an early 1990s statement by a close friend of Caserta and Joplin, Caserta's book angered the Los Angeles heroin dealer she described (including the make and model of his car) in detail to her readers. According to Ellis Amburn, in 1973 a "carful of dope dealers" visited a Los Angeles lesbian bar Caserta had been frequenting since Joplin was alive. Amburn quoted Caserta's friend Kim Chappell, who was in the alley behind the bar: "I was stabbed because, when Peggy's book came out, her dealer, the same one who'd given Janis her last fix, didn't like it that he was referred to and was out to get Peggy. He couldn't find her, so he went for her lover. When they realized who I was, they felt that my death would also hit Peggy, and so they stabbed me." Despite being "stabbed three times in the chest, puncturing both lungs," Chappell eventually recovered.
According to biographers, Peggy Caserta was one of many friends of Joplin who did not become clean and sober until a very long time after the singer's death, while others died from overdoses. Big Brother guitarist James Gurley "finally got clean and sober in 1984," wrote Ellis Amburn. Caserta survived "a near-fatal OD in December 1995", wrote Alice Echols. In 2000, Caserta appeared on-camera for a segment about Joplin on 20/20.
Joplin, along with Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane, opened opportunities in the rock music business for future female singers. Stevie Nicks commented that after seeing Joplin perform, "I knew that a little bit of my destiny had changed. I would search to find that connection that I had seen between Janis and her audience. In a blink of an eye she changed my life."
Joplin's body art, with a wristlet and a small heart on her left breast, by the San Francisco tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle, was an early moment in the popular culture's acceptance of tattoos as art. Another trademark was her flamboyant hair styles, often including colored streaks and accessories such as scarves, beads and feathers. When in New York City, Joplin, often in the company of actor Michael J. Pollard, frequented Limbo on St. Mark's Place. The performer, well known to the store's employees, made a practice of putting aside vintage and other one-of-a-kind garments she favored on stage and off.
The Mamas & the Papas 1971 song "Pearl" from their People Like Us album was a tribute. Leonard Cohen's 1974 song "Chelsea Hotel #2" is about Joplin. Likewise, lyricist Robert Hunter has commented that Jerry Garcia's "Birdsong" from his first solo album, Garcia, is about Joplin and the end of her suffering through death. Mimi Farina's composition "In the Quiet Morning", most famously covered by Joan Baez on her 1972 Come from the Shadows album, was a tribute to Joplin. Another song by Baez, "Children Of The Eighties", mentioned Joplin. A 1978 Serge Gainsbourg-penned song in French by English singer Jane Birkin, "Ex fan des sixties" references Joplin alongside other disappeared "idols" such as Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones or Marc Bolan
At the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival, Nina Simone, whom Joplin admired greatly, commented on Joplin:
Simone also included Joplin in her song "Stars", and opened her act with a rendition of "Little Girl Blue".
The 1979 film The Rose was loosely based on Joplin's life. Originally titled Pearl, after Joplin's nickname, and the title of her last album, it was fictionalized after her family declined to allow the producers the rights to her story. Bette Midler earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.
In 1987, the Janis Joplin Memorial, with an original gold, multi-image sculpture of Joplin by Douglas Clark, was dedicated in Port Arthur, Texas.
In 1992, the first major biography of Janis in two decades, Love, Janis, authored by her younger sister, Laura Joplin, was published. In an interview, Laura stated that Janis enjoyed being on the Dick Cavett Show and that Janis while growing up in Texas had difficulties with some people at school, but not the entire school. Laura stated that Janis was really enthusiastic after performing at Woodstock in 1969.
Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. In November 2009, the Hall of Fame and museum honored her as part of its annual American Music Masters Series. Among the artifacts at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum Exhibition are Joplin's scarf and necklaces, her 1965 Porsche 356 Cabriolet with psychedelically designed painting, and a sheet of LSD blotting paper designed by Robert Crumb, designer of the Cheap Thrills cover. She was the honoree at the Rock Hall's American Music Master concert and lecture series for 2009.
In the late 1990s, the musical play Love, Janis was created with input from Janis's younger sister Laura plus Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew, with an aim to take it to Off Broadway. Opening in the summer of 2001 and scheduled for only a few weeks of performances, the show won acclaim and packed houses and was held over several times, the demanding role of the singing Janis attracting rock vocalists from relative unknowns to pop stars Laura Branigan and Beth Hart. A national tour followed.
There have been many attempts at making a film about Joplin. On June 13, 2010, producer Wyck Godfrey said Amy Adams would play the starring role in director Fernando Meirelles' biographical drama titled Janis Joplin: Get It While You Can. Previous attempts have included Piece Of My Heart, which was to star Renée Zellweger or Brittany Murphy; The Gospel According To Janis, with director Penelope Spheeris and starring either Zooey Deschanel or Pink (singer); and an untitled film thought to be an adaptation of Laura Joplin's Off-Broadway play about her sister, with the show's star, Laura Theodore, attached.
Joplin had a profound influence on many singers. Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine spoke of Joplin's impact on her own musical prowess in an interview for Why Music Matters in a commercial against piracy:
Stevie Nicks considers Joplin one of her idols, saying:
Janis Joplin recorded four fully conceived studio albums in her career. Her first two albums were recorded with and fully credited to Big Brother and the Holding Company and the later two being solo albums. Previously unreleased studio and live material were added to these albums tracklistings and also released on the compilation Farewell Song in 1982. Joplin's early performances from when she was a folk-blues singer have been released on several well-received compilations through the years, one such compilation is the nine disc Blow All My Blues Away. In 2012 The Pearl Sessions were released giving an insight into her creative process.
As a popular psychedelic act of the late 1960s, many of Joplin's live concerts with Big Brother were professionally recorded and have been released on albums like Live at Winterland '68 and Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968.
Though most of her concerts were recorded during her solo career, few have been officially released, resulting in heavy bootlegging.
- Big Brother and the Holding Company (1967)
- Cheap Thrills (1968) 2x Platinum
- I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! (1969) Platinum
- Pearl (1971) 4x Platinum
- Big Brother and the Holding Company
- Kozmic Blues Band
- Full Tilt Boogie Band
- Big Brother & the Holding Company / Full Tilt Boogie
- Later collections
(as member of Big Brother & The Holding Company)
(as a solo artist)
(as member of Big Brother & The Holding Company)
(as a solo artist)
- Monterey Pop (1968)
- Petulia (1968)
- Janis Joplin Live in Frankfurt (1969)
- Janis: The Way She Was (1974)
- Comin’ Home (1988)
- Woodstock - The Lost Performances (1991)
- Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music (Director’s Cut) (1994)
- Festival Express (2003)
- Nine Hundred Nights (2004)
- The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons (2005) Shout
- Rockin' at the Red Dog: The Dawn of Psychedelic Rock (2005)
- This is Tom Jones (2007) 1969 appearance on TV show
- Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music (Director’s Cut) 40th Anniversary Edition (2009)
- Janis Joplin with Big Brother: Ball and Chain (DVD) Charly (2009)
- Amburn, Ellis. Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin: A Biography. NY: Warner Books, 1992. ISBN 0-446-39506-4.
- Caserta, Peggy. Going Down with Janis: Janis Joplin's Intimate Story. Dell: 1974. ASIN: B000NSBNMI.
- Dalton, David. Piece of my Heart: A Portrait of Janis Joplin. NY: Da Capo Press, 1991. ISBN 0-306-80446-8.
- Echols, Alice. Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin. NY: Henry Holt, 1999. ISBN 0-8050-5394-8.
- Friedman, Myra. Buried Alive: The Biography of Janis Joplin. NY: William Morrow, 1973. ISBN 0-688-00160-2.
- Friedman, Myra. Buried Alive: The Biography of Janis Joplin, updated edition. Three Rivers Press, 1992. ISBN 0517586509.
- Gilmore, John (1997). LAID BARE: A Memoir of Wrecked Lives & the Hollywood Death Trip. Los Angeles: AMOK. ISBN 1-878923-08-0.
- Joplin, Laura. Love, Janis. NY: Villard Books, 1992. ISBN 1-888358-08-4.
- Stieven-Taylor, Alison. Rock Chicks. Sydney: Rockpool Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-921295-06-5.
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Image from Discogs