40 Years Out: Janis Joplin’s Death

Forty years ago today, we learned of the death of Janis Joplin.  She was one of the finest blues singers ever.  The late 1960s counterculture, for all its “revolutionary” talk, still had a lot of old-fashioned values, as did the music.  Joplin’s blues were torn from the souls of Howlin’ Wolf, Big Mama Thornton and Ma Rainey and as a result her music is timeless.

When I was a sophomore in Port Arthur, Texas, Janis Joplin visited my high school in her hometown.  I’ve told this story before, but I was impressed by the down-to-earth, almost shy nature of this superstar who was idolized by kids with a background very much like her own.  You can sense this big, fragile heart in Big Brother and the Holding Company’s version of “Piece Of My Heart” as well as on the definitive “Ball and Chain.”

Janis in Port Arthur, a month before her death

Around that time, a lot of people in Port Arthur didn’t like Joplin because of her prominence in the counterculture.  The venom got even stronger after her death, but I think that might have been the old “generation gap” at work.  Today, Port Arthur has a little museum with a Janis Joplin exhibit as its centerpiece.  She is prominently featured in most of the advertising for the museum, so it’s possible the hate died along with the people who carried it – or they are simply more interested in making a buck off Joplin’s great legend.

And what a legend –  beginning with her electrifying 1967 performance at Monterey, to the muddy fields of Woodstock and finally to her death from an overdose, Janis Joplin managed to not only influence music but also make a powerful statement on the nature of female beauty, sexuality and women in general.  Let’s remember her as a strong but gentle soul.

MP3: “Piece Of My Heart” by Big Brother & the Holding Company

MP3: “Summertime” (live at Woodstock) by Janis Joplin

MP3: “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)” by Janis Joplin

MP3: “Me And Bobby McGee” (acoustic early take) by Janis Joplin

MP3: “Mercedes Benz” by Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin official website

Check 0ut “Piece Of My Heart,” a documentary produced by KUT-FM in Austin, Texas

From AOL.news: Friend says Joplin’s spirit is alive in the room where she died

4 Responses to “40 Years Out: Janis Joplin’s Death”

  1. youngromantic Says:

    Wow … how incredible is it that you GOT TO MEET HER?!?!?! I am so jealous and even though I’m 25, I’m a huge fan and was pleased to hear about her sweet and gentle nature!

  2. 30daysout Says:

    Didn’t really get to meet her, just observed her from a distance …At the time of her death, Janis wasn’t very popular in Port Arthur because she gave a national TV interview where she said the place was full of bigoted rednecks.

    Of course, following her death many people in Port Arthur couldn’t wait to capitalize on Janis Joplin’s continuing popularity. When they tore down her family’s old house in the 1980s, two guys picked up a bunch of the bricks and tried to sell “pieces of Janis Joplin’s house.”

  3. Thanks for shedding a bit more light on her life- the true Pearl. I was lucky enough to have met her. I was a runaway in NYC when she called me over and offered me some of her Southern Comfort. Let me know if you are interested in reading it.

  4. the track that i like most of all is try!
    so intresting that i see it in your list.

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