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Janis Joplin

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Janis Joplin
Photo by Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

On 4th Oct 1970, singer Janis Joplin was found dead at the Landmark Hotel in Hollywood after an accidental heroin overdose.

Just like there’s only one Joni Mitchell, and only one Aretha Franklin, there was only ever one Janis Joplin. No one else could come close. Janis was unique – she was the Queen of Psychedelic Soul.

Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas, on January 19, 1943, to Dorothy Joplin, a registrar at a business college, and her husband Seth Joplin, an engineer at Texaco. Janis was different. As a teenager, she befriended a group of outcasts, one of whom had albums by African-American blues artists Bessie Smith and Leadbelly, and it was while listening to these that Joplin discovered she had an inborn talent to sing the blues.

Joplin graduated from high school in 1960 and attended the University of Texas at Austin, though she did not complete her studies. The campus newspaper The Daily Texan ran a profile of her in the issue dated July 27, 1962, headlined “She Dares To Be Different.” The article began, “She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levi’s to class because they’re more comfortable, and carries her Autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin.

Around 1963, Janis left Texas for San Francisco and made some early recordings of blues standards with future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. It was also during this period that Joplin’s drug intake increased, topped with heavy drinking sessions.

In 1966, Joplin’s bluesy vocal style attracted the attention of the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, a band that had gained some renown among the west coast hippie community. Janis became their singer, and the group soon signed a deal and saw their debut album released by Columbia Records in August 1967.

Their breakthrough came with the release of their second album. Cheap Thrills topped the US charts for eight weeks and a star was well and truly born. This was Joplin’s destiny; it’s been said during the recording of the album Joplin was always the first person to enter the studio and the last person to leave. The album captured their raw sound and even included the sounds of a cocktail glass breaking and the broken shards being swept away during the song “Turtle Blues”.

Janis was fast becoming a star. Time magazine called her “probably the most powerful singer to emerge from the white rock movement,” and Vogue stated Joplin was “the most staggering leading woman in rock… she slinks like tar, scowls like war… clutching the knees of a final stanza, begging it not to leave… Janis Joplin can sing the chic off any listener.”

The Lord never did buy Janis a Mercedes-Benz, but in 1968 with the first real money, she made she treated herself to an eye-catching 1965 Porsche Cabriolet Super C – which was pained in bright rivers of yellow, orange, pink, and turquoise with a bloodied American flag on the trunk.

With this success came the usual workload of a heavy touring schedule, TV appearances, and more recording sessions. By early 1969 the singer was allegedly shooting at least $200 worth of heroin per day.

One of her last live performances was at the Concert for Peace at New York’s Shea Stadium with Steppenwolf, Paul Simon, Poco, and Johnny Winter. The concert date coincided with the 25th anniversary of dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

Janis made her last recordings on October 1, 1970, when she laid down ‘Mercedes Benz’ and a birthday greeting for John Lennon, whose birthday was October 9 (Lennon later told of how her taped greeting arrived at his home after her death). On Saturday, October 3, Joplin attended Sunset Sound Recorders in Los Angeles to listen to instrumental tracks prior to recording her vocals, which were scheduled for the next day. She never returned.

When Joplin failed to show up at Sunset Sound Recorders for the next recording session by Sunday afternoon, producer Paul A. Rothchild became concerned. Full Tilt Boogie’s road manager, John Cooke, drove to the Landmark. He saw Joplin’s Porsche in the parking lot. Upon entering her room, he found her dead on the floor beside her bed. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.

On 26 October 1970, a wake was held at Lion’s Share in San Anselmo, California to celebrate the singer’s life. Almost as though she’d had a premonition about her own death, Janis had left $2,500 in her will to throw a wake party in the event of her demise. The party was attended by her sister Laura and Joplin’s close friends. Brownies laced with hashish were unknowingly passed around amongst the guests. Joplin was cremated in the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Mortuary in Los Angeles; her ashes were scattered from a plane into the Pacific Ocean and along Stinson Beach.

If Janis had lived, she probably would have released another 20 albums by now. She probably would’ve appeared on Letterman a few times, maybe won a Grammy like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. Maybe even recorded duets with Elton John or Robert Plant. But sadly, we’ve never had the pleasure of seeing or hearing any of this.

R.I.P. the Queen of Rock and Roll.

Important Dates In The Life Of Janis Joplin:

On this day in music
7 Feb 2021
Producer Elliot Mazer died at the age of 79. He is most famous for his work with Neil Young, working on a string of releases including Harvest, Journey Through The Past, Times Fades Away, Tonight's The Night, American Stars & Bars, Hawks & Doves, Everybody's Rockin', Old Ways, Lucky 13 and the recently released "lost" album Homegrown. He also worked with The Band, Janis Joplin, Rory Gallagher and many more.
10 Dec 2015
Janis Joplin's psychedelic 1965 Porsche sold for $1.76 million at RM Sotheby's car auction in New York City. The car was originally expected to fetch between $400,000 and $600,000.
27 Dec 2008
Singer, songwriter, guitarist, Delaney Bramlett died in Los Angeles from complications after gall bladder surgery. Was a member of Delaney, Bonnie & Friends and worked with George Harrison, The Everly Brothers, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, J.J. Cale, and Eric Clapton.
2 Dec 2008
American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a civil and human rights activist Odetta died of heart disease age 77. She influenced many of the key figures of the folk-revival of that time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin. Time magazine included her song 'Take This Hammer' on its list of the 100 Greatest Popular Songs. Martin Luther King Jr. called her the queen of American folk music.
1 Nov 2008
US drummer and singer Jimmy Carl Black died. He was a member of The Keys, The Soul Giants, The Mothers Of Invention and Jimmy Carl Black And The Mannish Boys. Also worked with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, Joe Cocker, Grateful Dead and The Turtles.
14 Sep 2005
The newly refurbished Grateful Dead's original tour bus went on display at the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois. The 1965 Gillig bus, which Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Dead dubbed ‘Sugar Magnolia’ was used by the band on their frequent tours across the US between 1967 and 1985. The ceiling was lined with hundreds of vintage rock posters featuring The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and others who had visited the bus.
26 Aug 2004
Singer Laura Branigan died of a brain aneurysm. She had had a 1982 US No.2 & UK No.6 single with ‘Gloria’ and a 1984 US No.4 & UK No.5 with ‘Self Control’. She had also played Janis Joplin in the US musical Love, Janis.
26 Oct 1991
Legendary Rock concert promoter Bill Graham was killed when the Bell 206B JetRanger III helicopter he was riding in struck the top of a Pacific Gas and Electric transmission tower near Sears Point, northwest of Vallejo and exploded. The crash, which left the helicopter's wreckage dangling near the top of the towering structure, killed Graham, his girlfriend Melissa Gold and pilot Steve Kahn. Graham had founded the Fillmore theaters in San Francisco and New York and had played key roles in supporting such bands as The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Janis Joplin, The Band, Bob Dylan, The J. Geils Band, The Allman Brothers Band and The Rolling Stones.
25 Jan 1986
US manager Albert Grossman died of a heart attack while flying on Concorde from New York to London. He managed Bob Dylan (between 1962 and 1970), Peter, Paul and Mary, The Band, Janis Joplin and Todd Rundgren. Grossman built the Bearsville Recording Studio near Woodstock in 1969 and in 1970 he founded Bearsville Records.
25 Jul 1984
Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton died at the age of 58 died in Los Angeles of heart and liver complications. She had a No.1 R&B hit in 1953 with ‘Hound Dog’ (later covered by Elvis Presley). She also wrote and recorded ‘Ball 'n' Chain,’ which Janis Joplin recorded.
2 Apr 1981
CBS records launched the 'Nice Price' series of back catalogue albums in the UK. The first batch priced at £2.99 included early albums by Bob Dylan, Santana, Billy Joel, ABBA, Janis Joplin and Simon And Garfunkel.
10 Oct 1979
The Rose, starring Bette Midler as a self-destructive 1960s Rock star, (transparently based on Janis Joplin) premiered in Los Angeles. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Frederic Forrest), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Bette Midler, in her screen debut), Best Film Editing and Best Sound.
2 Apr 1971
Janis Joplin was at No.1 on the US album charts with the posthumously released Pearl. The album features the No.1 hit 'Me and Bobby McGee', written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster on which she played acoustic guitar.
20 Mar 1971
Janis Joplin started a two week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with her version of the Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster song 'Me And Bobby McGee.' Joplin, who was a lover and a friend of Kristofferson's from the beginning of her career to her death, changed the sex and a few of the lyrics in her cover. Kristofferson states he did not write this song for her, but the song is associated with her - especially, he has said, in the line 'Somewhere near Salinas, Lord, I let her slip away.' Joplin died of a drug overdose the year before on 4th October, aged 27.
11 Mar 1971
Jim Morrison of The Doors arrived in Paris booking into The Hotel George's. The following week he moved into an apartment at 17 Rue Beautreillis in Paris. Morrison lived in Paris until his death on July 3rd 1971, (two years to the day after the death of the Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, and approximately nine months after the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin).
27 Feb 1971
Five months after her death, Janis Joplin started a nine-week run at No.1 on the US album chart with her second and final solo studio album Pearl. Joplin sang on all tracks except 'Buried Alive in the Blues', which remained a Full Tilt Boogie instrumental because she died before adding her vocals.
26 Oct 1970
A wake was held at the Lion's Share in San Anselmo, California to celebrate the life of Janis Joplin. The singer who died of an accidental drugs overdose had left $2,500 in her will to throw a wake party in the event of her demise. The party was attended by her sister Laura and Joplin's close friends; Brownies laced with hashish were unknowingly passed around amongst the guests. Joplin was cremated in the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Mortuary in Los Angeles; her ashes were scattered from a plane into the Pacific Ocean and along Stinson Beach.
13 Oct 1970
Janis Joplin's ashes were scattered at Stinson Beach in Marin County, California. The singer had been found dead on the floor beside her bed at the Landmark Hotel in Hollywood California on 4th Oct. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.
4 Oct 1970
US singer Janis Joplin was found dead at the Landmark Hotel Hollywood after an accidental heroin overdose. Joplin had the posthumous 1971 US No.1 single 'Me And Bobby McGee', and the 1971 US No.1 album 'Pearl'. She was known as "The Queen of Psychedelic Soul" and as "Pearl" to her friends, Joplin remains one of the top-selling musicians in the United States, with over 15.5 million albums sold in the USA.
5 Sep 1970
Janis Joplin started recording sessions recording a version of the Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster song 'Me and Bobby McGee'. Joplin, (who was a lover and a friend of Kristofferson's from the beginning of her career to her death), topped the US singles chart with the song in 1971 after her death, making the song the second posthumous No.1 single in US chart history after '(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay' by Otis Redding.
8 Aug 1970
Janis Joplin bought a headstone for the grave of her greatest influence Bessie Smith at the Mount Lawn Cemetery in Philadelphia. Blues singer Smith died in 1937 after being refused admission to a whites only hospital.
6 Aug 1970
Steppenwolf, Janis Joplin, Paul Simon, Poco and Johnny Winter all appeared at the Concert For Peace at New York's Shea Stadium. The concert date coincided with the 25th anniversary of dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
27 Jun 1970
The Trans-Continental Pop Festival (better known as the The Festival Express) set off. The tour was unique in that rather than flying to each city, most of the acts travelled on a chartered CN train. Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Buddy Guy Blues Band all travelled together on the train playing shows in Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Calgary.
30 Nov 1969
The Rolling Stones played the final night on a 17 date North American tour at the International Raceway Festival, West Palm Beach, Florida. Also appearing, The Moody Blues, Ten Years After, King Crimson, Janis Joplin, The Band, Steppenwolf and Iron Butterfly.
15 Nov 1969
Janis Joplin was arrested during a gig in Tampa, Florida, after badmouthing a policeman and using vulgar and indecent language. Joplin became upset after police moved into the hall forcing fans to move back to their seats. As the singer left the stage she confronted a detective calling him 'a son of a bitch' and told him she would kick his face in. She was released on $504 bail.
22 Sep 1969
A new weekly TV show 'The Music Scene' aired on ABC in the US for the first time. Stevie Wonder, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Tom Jones, Cass Elliot, James Brown, Janis Joplin and Sly and the Family Stone were all booked to appear on the show.
20 Sep 1969
UK music paper Melody Maker readers poll results were published. Winners included Eric Clapton who won best musician, Bob Dylan best male singer and best album for 'Nashville Skyline'. Best group went to The Beatles, Best single went to Simon And Garfunkel for 'The Boxer' and Janis Joplin won Best female singer.
30 Aug 1969
The three day Texas Pop Festival took place featuring Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Sam & Dave, Santana, Johnny Winter, Grand Funk Railroad, Delaney & Bonnie, Nazz, Spirit, B.B. King, Canned Heat and Chicago. Over 120,000 fans attended the festival.
15 Aug 1969
Woodstock Festival was held on Max Yasgur's 600 acre farm in Bethel outside New York. Attended by over 400,000 people, the event featured, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Santana, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Canned Heat, Joan Baez, Melanie, Ten Years After, Sly and the Family Stone, Johnny Winter, Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shanker, Country Joe and the Fish, Blood Sweat and Tears, Arlo Guthrie, and Joe Cocker. During the three days there were three deaths, two births and four miscarriages.
1 Aug 1969
The three day US Atlantic City Pop Festival took place at the Atlantic City race track with B.B. King, Janis Joplin, Santana, Three Dog Night, Dr John, Procol Harum, Arthur Brown, Iron Butterfly, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Little Richard, Tim Buckley, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, The Mothers Of Invention and Canned Heat. Joni Mitchell started to cry and ran off stage in the middle of her third song because the crowd was not paying attention to her performance.
4 Jul 1969
Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Winter, Delaney and Bonnie, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Canned Heat, Joe Cocker, Blood Sweat & Tears, Chuck Berry, Spirit, Chicago and Paul Butterfield all appeared at the two-day Atlanta Pop Festival, Byron, Georgia.
20 Jun 1969
The first of a three day Festival in Newport, California, featuring: Ike And Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Byrds, The Rascals, Steppenwolf, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, Eric Burdon and Love. A three day ticket cost $15 (£8.80). Hendrix received $125,000 for his appearance, at the time it was the highest fee ever paid to a rock act for a single appearance.
21 Apr 1969
Janis Joplin appeared at The Royal Albert Hall, London, (her first London appearance). The opening act was Yes.
15 Mar 1969
Janis Joplin was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, on sale for 35 Cents, (2/6). The magazine was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner, the first issue of November 9, 1967 was in a newspaper format with a lead article on the Monterey Pop Festival.
8 Jul 1968
Pink Floyd kicked off their first 20-date North American tour at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago. The club became a driving force in the music business, hosting famous rock acts such as The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Byrds, Janis Joplin, The Mothers of Invention, Grateful Dead, MC5, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, Iron Butterfly, Fleetwood Mac, Vanilla Fudge, Muddy Waters and Jefferson Airplane.
4 Nov 1967
Pink Floyd made their US live debut when they appeared at the Winterland Auditorium, San Francisco, California. Floyd shared the bill with local group Big Brother & The Holding Company, featuring singer Janis Joplin and singer / songwriter Richie Havens.
16 Jun 1967
The three day Monterey Pop Festival in California began. All the proceeds went to charity when all the artists agreed to perform for free, the 'Summer of Love' was born. The festival saw the first major US appearances by The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Also on the bill: The Byrds, Grateful Dead, Otis Redding, Simon And Garfunkel, The Steve Miller Band, Canned Heat, The Mamas & the Papas, Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield and The Electric Flag. John Phillips, of The Mamas & the Papas wrote, 'San Francisco, (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)' to promote the festival, which later became a hit for Scott McKenzie.
17 May 1963
The first Monterey Folk Festival took place over three days in Monterey, California. The festival featured Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Peter Paul and Mary. The 1967 Monterey Rock festival is remembered for the first major American appearances by Jimi Hendrix and The Who as well as the first major public performances of Janis Joplin. It was also the first major performance by Otis Redding in front of a predominantly white audience.
5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Mary Adams

    October 4, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    Many in the Port Arthur area are still saddened by her death and how many others here mistreated her. She has a large exhibit at the Museum of the Gulfcoast where her memorabilia is popular.

  2. Linda

    October 4, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    I have always felt a connection to Janis as people have always said you remind me of Janis and in fact also had a bad heroin addiction but unlike her I was always poor so had to hustle alot to feed it when I hit 40 I went on methadone and never looked back but I always felt we had so much in common and I felt like she stood for all us suffering addicts I wish she were alive today I would have loved to have grown with her l can only imagine how she would have be on the front lines fighting for all us sad and lonely people I miss her singing and her spirit. See you someday I hope miss you always love ya

  3. Jack Merreighn

    October 4, 2019 at 11:31 pm

    She was unique like no other. God rest her soul.

  4. Juan Gonzalez Garcia

    October 5, 2019 at 5:28 am

    JANIS I LOVE YOU

  5. John H Barksdale

    October 4, 2022 at 1:37 pm

    Started listening to Janis in 1970, her voice and the words of her songs still have the same feelings and emotions today as they did when I first geared her voice. There will never be another Janice. The cutest song and the last words of Mercedes Benz always puts a smile on my face to make your day.

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