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Janis Joplin

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« on: October 04, 2007, 01:56:42 am »

Janis Joplin
Induction Year: 1995
Induction Category: Performer

"Inductee: Janis Joplin (vocals; born January 19, 1943, died October 4, 1970)
Janis Joplin brought her powerful, bluesy voice from Texas to San Francisco’s psychedelic scene, where she went from drifter to superstar. She has been called “the greatest white urban blues and soul singer of her generation.” Joplin’s vocal intensity proved a perfect match for the high-energy music of Big Brother and the Holding Company, resulting in a mix of blues, folk and psychedelic rock. Joplin’s tenure with Big Brother may have been brief, lasting only from 1966 to 1968, but it yielded a pair of albums that included the milestone Cheap Thrills. Moreover, her performance with Big Brother at 1967’s Monterey International Pop Festival, a highlight of the film documentary Monterey Pop, is among the great performances in rock history.
In the words of biographer Myra Friedman, “It wasn’t only her voice that thrilled, with its amazing range and strength and awesome wails. To see her was to be sucked into a maelstrom of feeling that words can barely suggest.” She was a dynamic singer who shred her vocal cords on driving psychedelic rockers like “Combination of the Two” and then deliver a delicate, empathetic reading of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.”
Joplin was born in 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas, an oil-refining town on the coast. Growing up, she was a social outcast who found an outlet in music. Joplin was drawn to blues (Odetta, Leadbelly and Bessie Smith) and soul (Otis Redding, Tina Turner and Etta James). She performed folk blues on the coffeehouse circuit in Texas and San Francisco before hooking up with Big Brother - guitarists James Gurley and Sam Andrew, bassist Peter Albin and drummer David Getz - at the suggestion of Chet Helms, a hip entrepreneur and fellow Texan. The chemistry came as a revelation even to Joplin: “All of a sudden, someone threw me in front of this rock and roll band,” she said. “And I decided then and there that was it. I never wanted to do anything else.”
Big Brother were loud, explosive and somewhat deliberately crude in their melange of blues and psychedelia. Helms, one of a group of event organizers who called themselves the Family Dog, booked the group on some of the earliest bills on the nascent San Francisco scene. Big Brother became regulars at Helm’s Avalon Ballroom in the mid-to-late Sixties. It was at the Avalon where much of Cheap Thrills - an album that topped the album charts for eight weeks in 1968 - was recorded. That explosive showcase of psychedelic soul featured Joplin’s raw, impassioned readings of Willie Mae Thornton’s “Ball and Chain” and “Piece of My Heart.” The latter song, which had been a Top Ten R&B hit in 1967 for Erma Franklin (Aretha’s younger sister), was co-written by Jerry Ragavoy, a favorite songwriter of Joplin’s. As a solo artist, she’d record other songs of his, including “Cry Baby,” “Get It While You Can” and “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder).”
Joplin left Big Brother in December 1968, taking guitarist Sam Andrew with her. Her first solo album, I’ve Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, appeared in 1969, and she toured extensively with her Kozmic Blues Band. By mid-1970, however, she’d dissolved that outfit and formed a superb new one, Full-Tilt Boogie. They gelled over the course of several months of touring and entered the studio to record what would turn out to be Joplin’s swan song. Joplin had often sought refuge in drugs and alcohol, and she was found dead of a heroin overdose in a Hollywood hotel room on October 4, 1970. The posthumously released Pearl – the title was her nickname – comprised nine finished tracks and one instrumental to which she was supposed to have added vocals on the day she died. It was prophetically titled “Buried Alive in the Blues.”
Pearl became Joplin’s biggest seller, holding down the #1 position for nine weeks in 1971. It included “Me and Bobby McGee,” a song written for her by ex-lover Kris Kristofferson. A quixotic portrait of a countercultural love affair, sung by Joplin as an affectionate, road-weary country blues, “Me and Bobby McGee” perfectly captured the bohemian spirit of the times. The powerful performances on Pearl, including “Move Over,” “Half Moon” and “Get It While You Can,” hint at what might have come from Joplin had she not died at 27.
Janis Joplin has passed into the realm of legend: an outwardly brash yet inwardly vulnerable and troubled personality who possessed one of the most passionate voices in rock history. It could be argued that her legacy has as much to do with her persona as her singing. Music journalist Ellen Wills asserted that “Joplin belonged to that select group of pop figures who mattered as much for themselves as for their music. Among American rock performers, she was second only to Bob Dylan in importance as a creator-recorder-embodiment of her generation’s mythology.”
Rock critic Lillian Roxon summed up her influence with these words: “[Janis Joplin] perfectly expressed the feelings and yearnings of the girls of the electric generation – to be all woman, yet equal with men; to be free, yet a slave to real love; to [reject] every outdated convention, and yet get back to the basics of life.”

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« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2007, 01:58:23 am »


January 19, 1943: Janis Joplin is born in Port Arthur, Texas.
June 11, 1965: Janis Joplin debuts with Big Brother and the Holding Company at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom, where they become the house band.
January 21-23, 1966: The Trips Festival, a multimedia event featuring performances by the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company, is held at Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco.
February 1, 1966: Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Jefferson Airplane headline the First Annual Tribal Stomp at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom.
February 19, 1966: Janis Joplin makes her debut as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company.
June 17, 1967: Big Brother and the Holding Company perform a show-stopping set on the second day of the Monterey International Pop Festival. Vocalist Janis Joplin becomes an overnight sensation.
August 12, 1967: The self-titled debut album by Big Brother and the Holding Company is released on Mainstream Records. It reaches #60.
1968: By 1968, the hippie movement was spreading across the U.S. and Europe, even though the political landscape hardly reflected the ethos of peace and love. Rock and roll was becoming a business, and bands continued to proliferate. Quicksilver and the Steve Miller Band both issued their debut albums, and the Grateful Dead released ‘Anthem of the Sun,’ a record that attempted to sonically re-create an LSD trip. The Jefferson Airplane hit the Top Ten with ‘Crown of Creation,’ the Big Brother and the Holding Company went all the way to Number One with ‘Cheap Thrills.’
August 12, 1968: ‘Cheap Thrills,’ by Big Brother and the Holding Company, is released on Columbia Records. It tops the chart for seven weeks.
September 29, 1968: “Piece of My Heart,” the lone Top Forty hit by Big Brother and the Holding Company, enters the charts. It reaches #12.
December 7, 1968: Janis Joplin performs for the last time as a member of Big Brother and the Holding Company. Two weeks later, she debuts her new group, the Kozmic Blues Band.
August 15-17, 1969: The year 1969 was the year of the rock festival. The largest was the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, held on the weekend of August 15-17 in the tiny town of Bethel, in upstate New York. An estimated crowd of 450,000 attended the event, which featured everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Joe Cocker, to Arlo Guthrie, the Jefferson Airplane, the Who, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Ravi Shankar and Country Joe McDonald. If Woodstock marked the apex of the hippie movement in America, the Rolling Stones’ free concert in Hyde Park did the same for England. Held on July 5, the show drew nearly 300,000 people, the largest gathering in England since V-E Day.
September 18, 1969: Janis Joplin’s first solo album, ‘I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again (Mama),’ is released.
June 12, 1970: Janis Joplin debuts a new band, Full-Tilt Boogie, at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky.
August 8, 1970: Janis Joplin provides a headstone for the grave of Bessie Smith, her primary influence, who is buried in Philadelphia’s Mount Lawn cemetery.
October 4, 1970: Janis Joplin is found dead in her room at the Landmark Hotel in Hollywood, California. The official cause is accidental heroin overdose.
February 27, 1971: ‘Pearl,’ the album that Janis Joplin was making at the time of her death, hits #1 on the album charts, where it will stay for nine weeks.
March 14, 1971: “Me and Bobby McGee,” Janis Joplin’s only Top Forty hit, reaches #1. It tops Billboard’s pop singles chart for two weeks.
July 14, 1973: ‘Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits’ enters the album charts. It will peak at #22 and sell more than 2 million copies.
October 10, 1979: ‘The Rose,’ a hit film loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin, premieres in Los Angeles. Bette Midler stars in the lead role.
January 12, 1995: Janis Joplin is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the tenth annual induction dinner. Melissa Etheridge is her presenter.
April 22, 2001: ‘Love, Janis,’ a musical play based on actual letters sent to family members by Janis Joplin, opens off-Broadway at New York’s Village Theater.
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« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2007, 02:01:15 am »

Life in the fast track
By Amy Raphael
November 27, 2004

Janis Joplin

When I interviewed Courtney Love in 1992, she stared at a copy of a Janis Joplin biography. "This is the sort of biography I want written about me," she said, picking it up. "I want to read out the first sentence, OK? 'I was stark naked, stoned out of my mind on heroin and the girl lying between my legs was Janis Joplin.' "

She paused for breath, looking in amazement at the first page of Peggy Casserta's Going Down With Janis. "This Joplin book is insanely graphic . . . sex, heroin this, **** that. I can't believe she was like that."

It takes a lot to shock Love. Even then, at the start of the '90s, the Hole singer-songwriter was no stranger to controversy herself. Yet even she was taken aback by the wild behaviour of a singer who had made her name over two decades previously. She also knew that, apart from the many stories about drugs, and about sex with men and women, Joplin is central to the story of women in rock; without her, Love and her female contemporaries might never have felt able to express themselves so freely.

Joplin, who sang with a bluesy soulfulness previously unheard of in a white woman, confounded stereotypes from the start. She grew up in Texas in the '50s when women performers were not encouraged to write their own material, and when the pressure to look and be "feminine" was acute. In the mid-'60s, when she found a niche for herself in the hippy counterculture of San Francisco, the Supremes were still wearing spangly gowns and smiling sweetly.

AdvertisementThe first major female solo singer to emerge after Aretha Franklin, Joplin was one of the few successful women in a very male world of dope and drink, guitars and groupies. Often, she saw no option but to behave in a male way while trying not to lose her identity as a woman; she knew no other way of being accepted. As a teenager, she had hung out with a mostly male gang of friends, and had an embarrassing propensity for shouting out, "Well, f--- you baby!"

Her role model was Bessie Smith, widely agreed to be the greatest female blues singer ever. Smith lived fast, drank hard and died relatively young, in a car crash in 1937, aged 43. In 1970, shortly before she died, she put up half the money to buy a proper tombstone for Smith's grave in Philadelphia.

Joplin began her career performing in clubs while she was attending the University of Texas in Austin. Shortly after being voted the "Ugliest Man on Campus" by her fellow students, she left for San Francisco. There, in the hippy enclave of Haight Ashbury, she hung out with the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. She joined a band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and her moment finally came in the summer of 1967, when the band performed twice at the first Monterey Festival and secured a major record deal. The following autumn their first album, Cheap Thrills, went straight to No. 1 in the American charts, and stayed there for eight weeks.

But Joplin was restless. At the end of 1968, she left Big Brother to go solo. She was beginning to show signs of paranoia. She worried that journalists were more interested in her lifestyle than in her music; she felt she had a role to play off and on stage. "It's not easy living up to Janis Joplin, you know," she once said.

By the time she reached Woodstock in 1969, it was clear she was struggling to hold it together; she had developed a heroin habit that made her a pale imitation of her former self.

In the spring of 1970, she formed a new band, the Full Tilt Boogie Band. She started to call herself "Pearl". She stopped taking heroin. But her reputation went before her: some venues refused to book her, worried about her abusive language on stage and the rowdy audiences she drew.

In September, Joplin and her band went into an LA studio to record a new album. She had started to use heroin again. On October 4, 1970, after a hard night's drinking with her band, Joplin went back to her room at the Landmark Hotel and died of a heroin overdose. She was 27.

Shortly before her death, in the summer of 1970, Joplin performed at a series of festivals across Canada. With the Grateful Dead, The Band, Sha-Na-Na and others, she travelled from Toronto to Calgary on a train that became known as the Festival Express. There is now a documentary about the tour: a film crew shot around 60 hours of material over five days, which has now been edited and augmented with commentary from surviving band members, organisers and journalists. Directed by British filmmaker Bob Smeaton, who won Grammys for his documentaries The Beatles Anthology and Band of Gypsys: Live at the Fillmore East (about Jimi Hendrix), it is an extraordinary film, and the footage of Joplin is particularly strong, whether close-ups of her singing with abandon on tiny stages just a few feet from the audience, or scenes of her hanging out with other musicians, most of them men, on the train.

She clearly has the respect of everyone around her. After her death, Jerry Garcia, late singer of the Grateful Dead, remembered: "Janis was a real person. She was just like the rest of us - f up, strung out, in weird places. She was doing what she was doing as hard as she could, which is as much as any of us can do."

"Janis was great on camera," Smeaton says. "A natural. She looks very modern. We interviewed a lot of guys on the train who knew her personally. They said she was one of the guys, but she was very much a woman. She could drink with the best of them, but she pretty much stayed in control. There's a great scene where she's sitting with Jerry Garcia and Rick Danko (bass player in The Band) and she's the leader, the boss. She knew exactly what she wanted and she went out and got it."

But perhaps the most striking aspect of the film is how relaxed and happy Joplin looks. David Dalton, who was writing a story for Rolling Stone that summer and spent a long time shadowing Joplin, talks of the great atmosphere on board the train. "It was a reunion for everyone who had been around Haight Ashbury in late 1966. Back then it was a very communal society, no one had any money; they were drug-taking crazy visionaries. Janis was in her element. The folk scene has always been kinder to female singers; it's more accepting of women than the rock world."

Dalton says that Joplin took some getting used to. He remembers going into the Rolling Stones' dressing room with her when they played Madison Square Garden.

They all blanched. She was too much for them. Here was a latter-day Bessie Smith! We actually seem to encourage female rap stars to be outrageous today, but Janis was pretty intimidating. She always had an impact on a room. People say she wasn't very attractive, and maybe she put on weight, developed bad skin in the heroin years, but when I first saw her in late '66, she was your absolute wet dream. She was very hot."

Joplin had a reputation as a bohemian, an intellectual, and she never felt the need to hide her middle-class roots; she was happy to sit and talk about books, films and life. Dalton thinks she may have spent too much time thinking. "She was very reflective. She was maybe too smart, too introspective. She ruminated about everything. But while she was fragile and vulnerable, she was also fearless. She'd go into any bar, even alone. She was certainly more fearless than her band."

At the time of her death, Joplin was engaged to Seth Morgan, a former drug dealer who later killed himself and another girlfriend in a motorbike accident. She wanted to settle down, to be looked after. She was happy with the album she was recording - the vital, passionate Pearl, which was released posthumously. In other words, she was in a happy place. Dalton says she never talked of suicide or death; he always imagined her growing old, sitting on a rocking chair on a porch with hens running around her.

But Country Joe McDonald, a musician who went out with Joplin in San Francisco, says he has always believed she was a victim of her gender. "Sexism killed her. Everybody wanted this sexy chick who sang really sexy and had lots of energy. People kept saying she was just 'one of the guys': that's a real sexist bulls**t trap, because that was f her head around. She was one of the women. She was a strong, groovy woman. Smart, you know? But she got f around."

While Joplin may have become rock's first female casualty, her legacy lives on. Although she may not be cited as an influence as often as, say, Patti Smith, without Joplin there might have been no blues-punk from Polly Harvey, no teen blues from Joss Stone, and no "odd" or behaviour from the likes of Bjork or Sinead O'Connor.

And it seems that her time may be coming again: Renee Zellweger is due to start filming a Joplin biopic, Piece of my Heart. Nothing, though, can match the power of watching her perform. As Bob Smeaton says: "She proved you could survive as a woman in the rock'n'roll business. They may not realise it, but all of the women performing today were given a doorway into rock'n'roll by what Janis Joplin achieved."

- The Guardian

Festival Express is now screening
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« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2007, 02:02:45 am »

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