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. They had Top 40 hits with songs "One Fine Morning" and "Sunny Days". The movie The Rose, with Bette Midler in the lead role, was loosely based on Joplin's life. The band lost key members in 1973 and 1974 and finally broke up in 1976 but reunited for a series of shows in Toronto in 1982. The album Pearl was released six weeks after her death. The band toured with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet production "Ballet High". She was cremated in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California, and her ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean. They received Juno Awards in 1971, 1972 and 1973, when they were awarded Group of the Year.

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. The group performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival and the Isle of Wight Festival. She made it there, but it would be one if the last decisions of her life. Bob McBride replaced Pinky Dauvan on vocals in 1970. 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". There were 13 members in all in the original lineup. 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. The band also included Howard Shore on saxophone and Grant Fullerton on bass guitar.

That group broke up, and Joplin then formed the Full Tilt Boogie Band. The founding members were Skip Prokop on drums, Ralph Cole on guitar and Paul Hoffert on keyboards. 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). The band's music included elements of rock music, jazz and classical music. (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. Lighthouse was a Canadian rock band formed in 1969 in Toronto which included horns, string instruments and vibraphone. 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. Official site (http://www.lighthouserockband.com/).

However, the lack of success of their early singles led to the album being withheld until after their subsequent success. Best of Lighthouse (1974). The band signed a deal with independent Mainstream Records and recorded an eponymously titled album in 1967. Can You Feel it (1973). 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. Sunny Days (1972). She was a heavy drinker throughout her career, and her trademark beverage was Southern Comfort. Lighthouse Live! (1972) (recorded live at Carnegie Hall).

She also used other intoxicants. Thoughts of Moving On (1971). Around this time her drug use began to increase, and she acquired a reputation as a "speed freak" and occasional heroin user. One Fine Morning (1970). 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. 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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