Born: January 19, 1943 - Port Arthur, Texas
Died: October 4, 1970 - Hollywood, California (heroin overdose)
“Being an intellectual creates a lot of questions and no answers. You can fill your life up with ideas and still go home lonely. All you really have that really matters are feelings. That's what music is to me.”
Girl Meets Blues:
Janis Lyn Joplin grew up in Port Arthur, Texas listening to the blues. In high school, she started singing them, first at coffee houses throughout Texas, and eventually in southern California and, on the opposite coast, around New York's Greenwich Village. She returned to Texas to give college a try, and became heavily involved with drugs and alcohol. She was an excellent student, but continued to be drawn to the musician's life.
In the Company of Big Brother:
Joplin had become friends with Chet Helms
in the early '60s. By 1966, Helms was in San Francisco promoting groups like Jefferson Airplane
and Grateful Dead
. Helms convinced Joplin to move to San Francisco
and hook up with a band he was managing, Big Brother and the Holding Company. After appearing at the Monterey Pop Festival
in 1967, the group rocketed to national prominence, and Joplin was established as a major musical star.
Joplin Goes Solo:
The band's 1968 Cheap Thrills
went to #1, after which Joplin left the band and put together a backup band called Kozmic Blues Band, performing at Woodstock
and releasing an album -- I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!
-- in 1969. The reception was lukewarm, and Joplin replaced the group with what became known as Full Tilt Boogie Band. Their album, Pearl
, was Joplin's most successful. Ironically, it was released after her death from an overdose of alcohol and pure heroin, in 1970.
Janis Joplin's Legacy:
Joplin was the first bona fide female rock star, breaking the "girl singer" mold that existed in pop and folk music. She was smart and funny. Her lifestyle, her outfits and her vocal style were "over the top." She fused blues and rock in ways that were unique among both male and female singers. Although she recorded only a few albums and was not a prolific songwriter, Joplin's musical and personal style opened the door to a generation of female rock singers.
Essential Janis Joplin CD:
Her last album is considered her best, having finally found a good musical match for her vocal style with her band Full Tilt Boogie.