Born on January 19, 1943, Janis Joplin grew up in Port Arthur, Texas. Culturally conservative and bourgeois, the mid-sized oil refinery city was a protected environment for Janis and her younger brother and sister. She wrote poems, painted and sang in the local church choir. Then came the problems of adolescence…
Considered one of her generation’s most transcendent talents, the electric Janis Joplin would have turned 75 years if she was alive yesterday. Known as “The Queen of Psychedelic Soul,” Joplin cut her teeth on the Haight-Ashbury scene in the middle of the 60s, joining San Francisco staple band Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1966, and quickly became a fixture with in the community with other prominent Bay Area bands like Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead.
1967 saw Joplin and Big Brother take a big step up and play their most significant show to date, the Monterey Pop Festival, in which her immortal version of “Ball and Chain” is captured by film maker D.A. Pennebaker’s in his documentary Monterey Pop.
Joplin would leave Big Brother in 1969 to pursue a solo career but not before the band’s second album Cheap Thrills took off, reaching the charts with the hit song, “Piece of My Heart.”
Though Joplin never achieved the same success she had with Big Brother during her new solo career, she continued to make valuable music with the release of I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! in 1969. That same year she would also play at the legendary Woodstock Festival, albeit not in the sharpest of sates.
In September 1970 she began recording what would become Pearl, as Joplin would succumb to a heroin overdose on October 4, before having finished the record. It was released posthumously in 1971 and includes Joplin’s only number one hit, a cover of Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster’s – “Me and Bobby McGee.”
She like many others of her generation passed away long before they should have, leaving us with a laundry list of “what if’s.” We’ve not seen a talent like Janis Joplin since her death, and it’s probably safe to say we’ll never see another.
In remembrance of Janis Joplin’s birthday, enjoy this rare performance of Joplin in Frankfurt, Germany in 1969 with her Kozmic Blues Band: