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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. The word tympany is an old-fashioned one meaning, "swollen, inflated, puffed-up", etymologically related to timpani, or "kettle drum", but historically separate. The movie The Rose, with Bette Midler in the lead role, was loosely based on Joplin's life. The Broadway show, Five Guys Named Moe was devoted to Jordan's music. The album Pearl was released six weeks after her death. Jordan died in Los Angeles, California. She was cremated in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California, and her ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean. After this, however, Jordan's popularity waned and he recorded only for a small following of enthusiasts.

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. At Mercury Records, Jordan managed to update his sound and released more hits, including "Let the Good Times Roll" and "Salt Pork, West Virginia". She made it there, but it would be one if the last decisions of her life. By the mid 1950s, Jordan's records were not selling as well as they used to and he began switching labels. 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". One of Jordan's biggest fans was Chuck Berry, who modelled his musical approach on Jordan's, changing the text from black life to teenage life. 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. Jordan's recordings celebrated African American urban life and were infused with good humor and energy that had a great influence on the development of rock and roll; his music was popular with both blacks and whites.

That group broke up, and Joplin then formed the Full Tilt Boogie Band. His biggest hit was "Caldonia", with its energetic punchline, banged out by the whole band, "Caldonia! Caldonia! What makes your big head so hard?" After Jordan's success with it, the song was also recorded by Woody Herman in a famous modern arrangement, including a unison chorus by five trumpets. 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). In the 1940s, Jordan released dozens of hit songs including "Saturday Night Fish Fry" (one of many contenders for the title of "First rock and roll record"), "Blue Light Boogie", "Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens", "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?", "Ain't That Just Like a Woman", and the multi-million seller "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie". (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 band's sound was similar to that of Fats Waller and his rhythm, but louder, with more pronounced rhythm, and that touch of the Caribbean sound commonly called "the Spanish tinge". 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. Jordan played alto sax and sang.

However, the lack of success of their early singles led to the album being withheld until after their subsequent success. Though this was recorded with The Elks Rendezvous Band, Jordan would go on to play with His Tympany Five, which eventually included Bill Jennings and Carl Hogan on guitar, Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett on piano, Chris Columbus on drums and Dallas Bartley on bass. The band signed a deal with independent Mainstream Records and recorded an eponymously titled album in 1967. In 1932, Jordan began performing with Chick Webb and Clarence Williams, recording "Honey in the Bee Ball" for Decca Records in 1938. 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. Alto saxophone became his main instrument-- although Jordan became even better known as a vocalist with his ebullient personality. She was a heavy drinker throughout her career, and her trademark beverage was Southern Comfort. Jordan started out on clarinet, and also played piano professionally early in his career.

She also used other intoxicants. Louis Jordan was born in Brinkley, Arkansas; his father was a local music teacher and bandleader. Around this time her drug use began to increase, and she acquired a reputation as a "speed freak" and occasional heroin user. Louis Jordan (July 8, 1908 - February 4, 1975) was an African-American jazz and rhythm & blues musician, and one of the few such to sell well to mainstream audiences in the post swing music era. 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. Download sample of "Caldonia". There, she began singing blues and folk music with friends.

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. She grew up listening to blues musicians such as Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton and singing in the local choir. Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas. Joplin released four albums as the frontwoman for several bands from 1967 to a posthumous release in 1971.

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

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