Iâ€™ll tell you â€˜bout Texas Radio and the Big Beat.../ Iâ€™ll tell you â€˜bout the hopeless night/ Wandering the Western dream/ Tell you â€˜bout the maiden with raw iron soulâ€ â€” Jim Morrison, â€œThe Waspâ€
This is the story of a girl who lived hard and died fast, leaving us with only her voice.
Janis Joplin was born January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas to Seth and Dorothy Joplin. The oldest child of a working class family, Janis grew up in an oil refinery town, and was labeled â€œeccentricâ€ by all who came in contact with her. Nonetheless, her parents saw immense artistic talent in Janis, and urged her to explore and cultivate her gift.
Socially outcast by the time she was 14, Janis admittedly retreated into a private world of art and music, studying the sounds of blues legends like Huddie â€œLeadbellyâ€ Ledbetter and Bessie Smith. By the time Joplin turned 18 years old, she was already singing in local country western clubs in Austin and Houston, Texas. On the surface, she seemed the perfect icon for stardom in the late Sixties: She fit no standard of beauty yet exuded a raw sensuality that mirrored a movement which rejected societal standards by creating its own.
Though completely consumed by her love of the blues, Janis enrolled in and attended Lamar State College of Technology and the University of Texas at Austin. She would drop out in 1963, with plans to sing folk and blues songs in Texas clubs.
Late in 1963, Joplin hitchhiked to California, where she became a part of the hippie movement in San Francisco. She quickly became a favored regular in San Francisco and Venice Beach coffeehouses and clubs. After two years in California, Janis was out of control, however, abusing alcohol and amphetamines daily.
She returned home to Port Arthur, Texas and her family for inspiration and encouragement. Re-enrolling in college, Janis excelled in school, but never seemed content. She questioned her lifeâ€™s direction and attempted to fit in in her native hometown. As further proof of her being a misfit, she was voted â€œthe ugliest man in collegeâ€ by her mates.
Realising she couldnâ€™t adapt to small town life again, Janis returned to California within a year. Chet Holms, friend and promoter, recommended Janis as the lead vocalist for an existing band known as Big Brother and the Holding Company. The almost unheard of rock band took part in the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival in California, where Joplin gave a mesmerising performance of the blues classic, â€œBall and Chain,â€ and thrust the band into the spotlight.
On the strength and popularity of that performance, Joplin and band were offered a recording contract with the independent record label, Mainstream. In 1968,
Big Brother and the Holding Company released their first self-titled album, which would be
followed by the release of two singles.
As pressure to perform mounted, the band indulged themselves in high-priced drugs and binges that began to affect their performance and work relationships. On Christmas Day, 1968, Big Brother and the Holding Company played their last performance as a group.
Later that year, with dreams of beginning a solo career, Joplin struck out on her own. An awestruck crowd egged her on during the landmark Woodstock festival in Bethel, New York in August of 1969, and Janis made headlines again.
With a penchant for Jazz always at the forefront of Janisâ€™ music, she formed a backup group called, The Kozmic Blues Band . First released in 1969 by the Kozmic Blues Band, â€œI Got Dem Olâ€™ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!â€ would climb to number five on the charts, just as the band broke up. To handle mounting tensions, Janis had turned to heroin, and her use of alcohol and other drugs had increased, as well. It was not uncommon for Janis to speak of her drug use openly or perform with a bottle of Southern Comfort in hand. Recognising she had a problem, Joplin quit drugs altogether in late 1969, and seemed to reinvent herself with a new group, The Full Tilt Boogie Band. With a new sound, style of music and lifestyle, Janis seemed happier than ever. Janis hit the studio that year to work on her new album, â€œPearl.â€
On October 4, 1970, four years and four months after she bolted from Austin, Janis Joplin overdosed in her room at the Landmark Hotel in Los Angeles, having scored a particularly pure batch of heroin. Her career had been virtually meteoric, but her ascent as the first goddess of rock was doused by her sad, lonely death, which followed that of Jimi Hendrix, whoâ€™d died two weeks earlier. Jim Morrison would die within a year, and whatever glow the Sixties had was finally dimmed for good. Janis Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and is still today considered to be one of the most original and talented white female blues artists of all time.