Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Janis Lyn Joplin was born January
19, 1943 and died October 4, 1970. In between she led a triumphant and
tumultuous life blessed by an innate talent to convey powerful emotion
through heart-stomping rock-and-roll singing. Born and raised in Port
Arthur, Texas, a small Southern petroleum industry town, she gravitated
to artistic interests cultivated by parents Seth and Dorothy Joplin.
Big Brother played in the Bay area and up and down the California coast, to ever-increasing enthusiasm for their unique brand of psychedelic rock. They initially signed with Mainstream Records, a small outfit that did little promotion, but did produce an album and two singles, "Blindman" and "All Is Loneliness." Then during the summer of 1967--the "Summer of Love"--Big Brother played a large concert, The Monterey International Pop Festival. Janis smashed through her anonymity with Big Mama Thornton's "Ball and Chain" and the world took note.
The group was actively courted by Albert Grossman, one of the most powerful entertainment managers of the day. Through his representation, they signed a three-record recording contract with Columbia Records, who bought out Mainstream's rights. Their "Cheap Thrills" album was released in August, 1968 and soon went gold, presenting the hits "Piece of My heart" and "Summertime." The band was playing to large audiences, for big fees, and the billing now read "Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company." The pressure mounted, income rose and hippie rockers indulged themselves with their new ability to use high-priced drugs. Drugs began affecting their performing and work relationships and in Christmas of 1968, the group played its last gig together.
Janis formed a new group, oriented more toward blues and released a new album "I Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues Again, Mama" in September of 1969. In the U.S., mixed reviews greeted the new sound but in Europe the group was welcomed with loudly enthusiastic praise. Still the anything-goes lifestyle grew with greater use of drug and alcohol to both increase the artistic creativity and to handle the tensions of coming down. Finally recognizing the problems in her life, Janis quit her drug use. She formed a third band, called Full Tilt Boogie Band, which evolved more professional popular sound. Janis felt she'd finally found her unique style of white blues. She was never happier with her new music. While recording her next album "Pearl," she chanced into using heroin again. Obtaining a dose more pure than usual, she accidentally overdosed in a motel in Los Angeles at the age of 27. Her third album was released posthumously to wide acclaim, launching the popular songs "Me and Bobby McGee" and Mercedes Benz."
Janis's albums have gone gold, platinum, and triple-platinum. Her "Greatest Hits" album still tops the charts in Billboard. Several new releases have followed her death, with wide acclaim for her boxed set, "Janis." She was the subject of a 1973 feature documentary, "Janis," and numerous TV documentaries, the most notable being VH-1's Legends program. She is currently the subject of two hotly contested biographical movie projects.
by Laura Joplin