I want to pay tribute to an amazing singer; as well as a path-breaking woman. I am going to provide you with insights, information and inspiration from the life and creative legacy of Janis Joplin. In many respects, she will be remembered as a public pioneer in the women’s movement. Her story is a case study of the hippie counterculture. I hope that you will enjoy this analysis ofand tribute to one of my main spirit guides (along with Jimi Hendrix , John Lennon, and Jim Morrison.) Her spirit is more alive today then she was at the time of her death. BTW – although she died directly from an accidental overdose of extremely pure heroin; it really was alcohol that killed her (as it did Jim Morrison.) Be sure and listen to her music and learn her lessons. Janis would have recently turned 70 if she had lived. Happy Birthday Janis!!
As a scholar of both the women’s movement and the hippie counterculture, I am confident that Janis will emerge as the key link between the two. Her message to young women was to be yourself and do what you think is right. She lived and preached the gospel of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Above all she was known for her openness and honesty. She urged us to tell the truth and stressed the importance of individual rights and freedom. She never gave up in her quest for fame and friends.
Janis was truly a social change catalyst – as well as an political provocateur in her own way. She urged young people to question assumptions and authority. Above all she stressed that a woman could be just as powerful in society as a man. As the first female rock superstar she blazed the trail for most of the female and male singers alive. She was known to rap and chant during the ends of her shows. She got the audience moving and grooving like no one else could. She danced and shook with wild abandon.
In this tribute I have included several different recent articles about her impact; including the posthumous recognition she has received. Then I present a series of quotes from people who knew and admired her. Finally, I have pulled together some of her most important statements. Along with this you get a variety of pix that show the many sides o Janis Joplin.
You think of Janis Joplin, whose music is so redolent of the ’60s, and what comes to mind? A woman who could bellow and cry and stamp and then turn around and go achingly tender. Someone who could sing up every song any truck driver ever knew. Someone in whom there seemed so much need, which somehow she transformed to our need.
You think of that sweaty and sometimes porcine face. Of the bad complexion. Of the tangled hair. Of the mouth eating the microphone. Of the pink feather boas. Of the layers of bracelets. Of the tattoos. Of the fifths of Southern Comfort carried onstage. Of that wild hillbilly cackle. (Remember how she just dissolves into it at the end of “Mercedes Benz” on her last album, as though everything, not just the ditty, but life itself, were so damn absurd?) Janis Joplin had an incredible cackle. She had a cackle like no one else in rock. It’s one of the clues to the other self. Sometimes, though, she could be surprisingly beautiful. Physically beautiful.
Was she selfish? You bet. Was she sexual? To her toenails. Was she self-destructive in both her pursuit of sex and her turned-inward lifestyle? “She defined men sexually, as she defined herself, and then went at her one-night stands and sometimes orgies under the cover of a liberated style of life. . . . She was left with little more than the yawning chasm of a tortured loneliness,” her publicist and biographer, Myra Friedman, wrote after Joplin’s death in one of the very best books about her. It’s titled, not wrongly, “Buried Alive.”
That other self: It was always there, beneath the music, informing it, and we knew this, we just didn’t want to think about it very much. The other self wanted parental approval. The other self was surprisingly literate. The other self had this curious, fragile, little-girl quality about it. It had something ingenuous and middle-American about it. That the two selves were so impossibly in conflict is what the made the art go, fueled all the destruction.
Janis Joplin Biography by Margaret Moser
On the surface, she seemed the perfect icon for stardom in the late Sixties: She fit no standard of beauty yet exuded a raw sensuality that mirrored a movement which rejected societal standards by creating its own. When Janis Joplin arrived in San Francisco, in 1966, the year before the Summer of Love, its music scene was already in a nascent, post-Beat hippie whirl. Young people flocked to the Bay area as if to Mecca by the thousands, searching for identity, reason, justification, maybe just something as simple as acceptance.
This is the irony of all the great Sixties icons — Joplin included: that their desire for acceptance was at the heart of their rebellion, and that their ultimate embrace by the masses came about because of this rebellion. The sad part about rebellion, however, is that it usually follows rejection, and that was something Janis Joplin knew deep down in her soul.
What would Janis Joplin have been like today? Undoubtedly mellower; likely dried out and cleaned up, because if she wasn’t alcoholic at the time, she surely would have been soon. The toll would not have shown well on her face, but blues mamas are supposed to look the part, anyway. By dying young, she is frozen at the pinnacle of her success — brilliant and shimmering in the easy grace of audience acceptance and approval. She is, forever, raw iron soul.
The Immortals – The Greatest Artists of All Time: 46) Janis Joplin
By Rosanne Cash From RS 946, April 15, 2004
It’s hard to imagine now the extent to which Janis was so completely shocking at the time. There had been blues singers who were wild and unrestrained — but even they tended to be a little more buttoned-down than Janis. She always seemed on the verge of being totally out of control. Last summer, I watched the Monterey Pop Festival film for the first time in ages, and I was absolutely stunned by Janis. She had this focus that was relentless. She was a spectacle, like some kind of nuclear being bearing down on the crowd. In the film, you see Mama Cass at the end of Janis’ performance just shaking her head, standing up and applauding, like, “Oh, my God, what just happened?”
She had an unshakable commitment to her own truth, no matter how destructive, how weird or how bad. Nothing else seemed to matter. She was such an individual in the way she dressed, the way she sang, the way she lived. She loved her whiskey and made no bones about it. This was a full-blown one-of-a-kind woman — no stylist, no publicist, no image-maker. It was just Janis.
- The 1979 film, The Rose, was loosely based on Joplin’s life. Bette Midler earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for her performance.
- In the late 1990s, the musical play Love, Janis was created with input from Janis’ younger sister Laura plus Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew, with an aim to take it to Off-Broadway. Opening in the summer of 2001 and scheduled for only a few weeks of performances, the show won acclaim and packed houses and was held over several times, the demanding role of the singing Janis attracting rock vocalists from relative unknowns to pop stars Laura Branigan and Beth Hart. A national tour followed.
- In 1988, the Janis Joplin Memorial, with an original bronze, multi-image sculpture of Joplin by Douglas Clark, was dedicated in Port Arthur, Texas.
- Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
- In the 2007 movie Across the Universe, Joplin is portrayed as Sadie, played by Dana Fuchs.
Quotes from Friends and Fans
“The thing about Janis is that she just looked so unique, an ugly duckling dressed as a princess, fearlessly so. Seeing her live was like watching a boxing match. Her performance was so in your face and electrifying that it really put you right there in the moment. There you were living your nice little life in the suburbs and suddenly there was this train wreck, and it was Janis.” — Chrissie Hynde
“The thing that really got me about Janis the most, was how liberated she was. She stood in that power even though it was kind of that platform of blues of being completely tormented, that enabled her to just stand there and let it go at a time when woman were not doing that…she just came out in the completely undone, unwrapped way and I think spoke right out of a woman’s soul. Directly.” — Ann Wilson
“We were too young, too rich and too happy to be suicidal.” — Grace Slick (In reflection of Janis’ overdose)
“She was very jazzy, I think. Every night it was all improvised.” — Mari Wilson
“I felt for her because she was pioneering that road and it’s a heavy responsibility and you’re out there on your own, you know?” — P.P. Arnold
“Janis didn’t, you know, do steps or anything, but she had this fabulous way of using her body that was very original; very much her own. I loved her.” — Bette Midler
“I began feeling proud to be her role model. When I heard her sing, I recognized my influence, but I also heard the electricity and rage in her own voice. I loved her attitude.” — Etta James
“I have a deep, spiritual connection to Janis. And I don’t know how, why or when. But, I’ve always been extremely attracted to her energy, and her pain, and her voice, and her life. I just think she is one of the most amazing women that ever lived.” — Pink
“Janis Joplin sings the blues as hard as any black person.” — B.B. King
“Listening to her is like being sucked into a vortex. She goes deep. That deep throaty depth. I’ve listened to a lot of blues. Nobody sounds quite like Janis Joplin. I mean, Janis Joplin without the ’60s would have still been Janis Joplin.” Todd Gitlin, author of “The Sixties”
“I think Janis represents the strength of women on their own. I think it has to do with strength, with independence. I look at Janis as a whole person. Drugs is not something we ever did together. I accept it, I accept all of it. I just can’t connect with it. I understand there’s a lot of ambiguity about her.” Laura Joplin (Sister in 1998)
“Onstage, I make love to 25,000 people – then I go home alone.”
“Don’t compromise yourself. It’s all you’ve got.”
“You can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow.”
“Being an intellectual creates a lot of questions and no answers. You can fill your life up with ideas and still go home lonely. All you really have that really matters are feelings. That’s what music is to me.”
“You never can tell….Sometimes they think they’re gonna like you. And then you get out there and you really damage and offend their femininity. You know, ‘No chick is supposed to stand like that.’ I mean, crouching down in front of the guitar player goin’ ‘uuuuhhhn!’ You know, lettin’ your tits shake around, and your hair’s stringy, you have no makeup on, and sweat running down your face, you’re coming up to the fuckin’ microphone, man, and at one point their heads just go ‘click,’ and they go ‘Oooh, no!’ You get that a lot. It’s really far out. When you’re standing on stage you can’t see the whole crowd.
“Well, here it is – our first New York review from our first New York gig. … From all indications I’m going to become rich & famous. Incredible! All sorts of magazines are asking to do articles & pictures featuring me. I’m going to do everyone. Wow, I’m so lucky – I just fumbled around being a mixed-up kid (& young adult) and then I fell into this. And finally, it looks like something is going to work for me. Incredible. Well, pin the review up so everyone can see – I’m so proud.” Janis Letter home from June 1966
“Yes, folks, it’s me wearing a sequined cape, thousands of strings of beads & topless. But it barely shows because of the beads. Very dramatic photograph & I look really beautiful!! I’m thrilled!!! I can be Haight-Ashbury’s first pin-up.”
“Women Is Losers” from her first album
Women is losers
Women is losers, oh
Say honey women is losers.
Well, I know you must try, Lord,
Men almost seem to end up on top.
Oh, if they told you they want you
Say come around by your door.
Whoa I say now, if they don’t desert you,
They’ll leave you and never be here for more.
They wear a nice shiny armor
Until there is a dragon for to slay.
Any day now,
Course with men beggin’ to pay ‘em
Then they’ll turn and run away, oh!
Women is losers
Women is losers
Women is losers, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord!!!
So I know you must-a know, Lord,
Men almost seem to end up on top, oh!