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Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin on the cover of her posthumously-released live album In Concert

Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 - October 4, 1970) was an American blues-influenced rock, R&B, and soul singer and occasional songwriter with a distinctive voice. Joplin released four albums as the frontwoman for several bands from 1967 to a posthumous release in 1971.

Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas. She grew up listening to blues musicians such as Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton and singing in the local choir. Joplin graduated from Jefferson High School in Port Arthur in 1960 and went to college at the University of Texas in Austin, though she never completed a degree. There, she began singing blues and folk music with friends.

Cultivating a rebellious manner that could be viewed as "liberated", Joplin styled herself after the beat poets, left Texas for San Francisco in 1963, lived in North Beach, and worked occasionally as a folk singer. Around this time her drug use began to increase, and she acquired a reputation as a "speed freak" and occasional heroin user. She also used other intoxicants. She was a heavy drinker throughout her career, and her trademark beverage was Southern Comfort.

After a return to Port Arthur to recuperate, she again moved to San Francisco in 1966, where her bluesy vocal style saw her join Big Brother and The Holding Company, a band that was gaining some renown among the nascent hippie community in Haight-Ashbury. The band signed a deal with independent Mainstream Records and recorded an eponymously titled album in 1967. However, the lack of success of their early singles led to the album being withheld until after their subsequent success.

The band's big break came at the Monterey Pop Festival, which included a version of Big Mama Thornton's Ball and Chain and featured a barnstorming vocal by Joplin. (The D.A. Pennebaker documentary Monterey Pop captured Cass Elliott in the crowd silently mouthing "Wow" during part of Joplin's performance.) Their 1968 album Cheap Thrills featured more raw emotional performances and made Joplin's name.

Splitting from Big Brother, she formed a backup group, named the Kozmic Blues Band, which backed her on I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! 1969 (year she played at Woodstock). That group broke up, and Joplin then formed the Full Tilt Boogie Band. The result was the posthumously released Pearl (1971), which featured a hit single in the form of Kris Kristofferson's Me and Bobby McGee and the wry social commentary of Mercedes-Benz, written by beat poet Michael McClure.

Her last public appearance was on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970, where she said that she was going to attend her 10-year high school reunion, although she had formerly said when in high school there she was "laughed out of class, out of school, out of town". She made it there, but it would be one if the last decisions of her life.

Shortly thereafter, Joplin died of an overdose of unusually pure heroin on October 4, 1970 in a Los Angeles, California motel room, at the age of 27. She was cremated in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California, and her ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean. The album Pearl was released six weeks after her death. The movie The Rose, with Bette Midler in the lead role, was loosely based on Joplin's life.

She is now remembered best for her powerful, distinctive voice, which was significantly divergent from the soft folk-influenced styles more common at the time, as well as for her lyrical themes of pain and loss.

Samples

  • Download sample of "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" from I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!

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She is now remembered best for her powerful, distinctive voice, which was significantly divergent from the soft folk-influenced styles more common at the time, as well as for her lyrical themes of pain and loss. In truth the band was originally called simply 42 after the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the word Level was added to make the name more distinctive. The movie The Rose, with Bette Midler in the lead role, was loosely based on Joplin's life. The origin of the band's name has been variously described as being inspired by a sign in a lift in a very tall building in the US; the top level of the biggest car-park in the world, in Japan; the floor on which Jonathan Pryce lives in the film Brazil; or after Tower 42 (also known as NatWest Tower) a tall building in the City of London. The album Pearl was released six weeks after her death. The current lineup consists of bassist King, drummer Husband, Nathan King on guitars and vocals, Lyndon Connah on keys and vocals, and Sean Freeman on sax and vocals. She was cremated in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California, and her ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean. King revived the group as a touring unit in 2002.

Shortly thereafter, Joplin died of an overdose of unusually pure heroin on October 4, 1970 in a Los Angeles, California motel room, at the age of 27. Level 42 released one final album of new material, Forever Now, marked by the return of Phil Gould as studio drummer. She made it there, but it would be one if the last decisions of her life. Allan then left the band, to be replaced by Jakko Jaczyk. Her last public appearance was on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970, where she said that she was going to attend her 10-year high school reunion, although she had formerly said when in high school there she was "laughed out of class, out of school, out of town". The album did not sell well despite being regarded by some as Level 42's most musically sophisticated work to date. The result was the posthumously released Pearl (1971), which featured a hit single in the form of Kris Kristofferson's Me and Bobby McGee and the wry social commentary of Mercedes-Benz, written by beat poet Michael McClure. Their fans did not like this direction, and the pop music scene in the UK had moved in a different direction.

That group broke up, and Joplin then formed the Full Tilt Boogie Band. During the early 1990s, the group tried to blend more of their earlier influences, such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, into their sound by asking master musician Allan Holdsworth to provide some stunning guitar work for the album 'Guaranteed'. Splitting from Big Brother, she formed a backup group, named the Kozmic Blues Band, which backed her on I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! 1969 (year she played at Woodstock). At this time a greatest hits compilation was released. (The D.A. Pennebaker documentary Monterey Pop captured Cass Elliott in the crowd silently mouthing "Wow" during part of Joplin's performance.) Their 1968 album Cheap Thrills featured more raw emotional performances and made Joplin's name. The following year Alan died from an AIDS related illness, and the band took some time off. The band's big break came at the Monterey Pop Festival, which included a version of Big Mama Thornton's Ball and Chain and featured a barnstorming vocal by Joplin. A new album Staring at the Sun, was released in 1988.

However, the lack of success of their early singles led to the album being withheld until after their subsequent success. In addition, guitarist Alan Murphy joined, formerly of Go West. The band signed a deal with independent Mainstream Records and recorded an eponymously titled album in 1967. As a result, Mark King recruited Gary Husband and Steve Topping to fill their places. After a return to Port Arthur to recuperate, she again moved to San Francisco in 1966, where her bluesy vocal style saw her join Big Brother and The Holding Company, a band that was gaining some renown among the nascent hippie community in Haight-Ashbury. Both Phil and Boon left the group, unhappy with the increasingly 'pop' direction, and exhausted from touring. She was a heavy drinker throughout her career, and her trademark beverage was Southern Comfort. The band's 1987 album Running in the Family although selling well, cemented this musical direction.

She also used other intoxicants. By this time the band was heading away from its original jazz-funk sound and towards a much more mainstream pop sound. Around this time her drug use began to increase, and she acquired a reputation as a "speed freak" and occasional heroin user. Singles from this, Something About You, and Leaving Me Now were also top ten hits, followed by another, Lessons in Love. Cultivating a rebellious manner that could be viewed as "liberated", Joplin styled herself after the beat poets, left Texas for San Francisco in 1963, lived in North Beach, and worked occasionally as a folk singer. The next album, World Machine, was released in 1985. There, she began singing blues and folk music with friends. That same year, Mark King pursued solo projects.

Joplin graduated from Jefferson High School in Port Arthur in 1960 and went to college at the University of Texas in Austin, though she never completed a degree. The quartet followed that with True Colours in 1984. She grew up listening to blues musicians such as Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton and singing in the local choir. A fourth album Standing in the Light generated their first top ten hit in the UK in 1983, The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up). Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas. In between Polydor released The early tapes recorded in the early days of the band when they were signed to the Elite label. Joplin released four albums as the frontwoman for several bands from 1967 to a posthumous release in 1971. Their album went on to become a huge seller.

Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 - October 4, 1970) was an American blues-influenced rock, R&B, and soul singer and occasional songwriter with a distinctive voice. The following year, a second album The Pursuit of Accidents was made, and singles from the album, first Weave Your Spell and then The Chinese Way were released, both charting, the latter in particular rising high in the charts and gaining the band a much wider audience than hitherto. Download sample of "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" from I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!. This became an immediate success throughout Europe. They then cut their critically acclaimed debut album, Level 42. In 1981 they released Love Games, a top-40 hit.

Shortly after they released the single Love Meeting Love on Elite they came to the attention of Polydor records and signed to them. Initially they were signed to a small independent record label (Elite Records) after being seen jamming together. Level 42 were formed in 1980 as a Jazz-Funk fusion band. The founding band members were:.

The band gained fame for its tight musicianship, especially that of bassist/vocalist Mark King. Level 42 are an English pop band who throughout the 1980s had a number of hits in the UK and around the world. The Master Series (1996) (compilation). Live At Wembley 1989 (1996) (Live).

Turn It On (1996) (compilation). To Be With You Again (1995) (compilation). Forever Now (1994). Lessons In Love - Best (1993) (compilation).

On A Level (1993) (compilation). The Remixes (1992) (compilation). On The Level (1991) (compilation). Guaranteed (1991).

Level Best (1989) (greatest hits compilation). Staring At The Sun (1988). Running In The Family (1987). World Machine (1985).

A Physical Presence (Live) (1985). True Colours (1984). Standing in the Light (1983). The Pursuit of Accidents (1983).

Strategy/The Early Tapes (1982). Level 42 (1981). Phil Gould - Drums. Boon Gould - Guitars.

Mike Lindup - Keyboards/Vocals. Mark King - Vocals/Bass.

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