Janis Joplin (Rock A-Z part #49)

Janis Joplin is (unfortunately) also a post-humous member of the infamous ’27 club’. However, like all of her fellow club members, her gift to the music industry in the short time she was with us lives on 45 years after her passing.

Born in Port Arthur, Texas in January 1943, she hitched to California in the early 1960’s and started singing in ‘The Waller Creek Boys Trio’ who, in 1963, appeared opposite Jorma Kaukonen (later to join Jefferson Airplane). After a brief return to Texas to rehearse (but never perform) with ‘The 13th Floor Elevators’, she returned to San Francisco in 1966 and joined ‘Big Brother & The Holding Company’.

The band released two albums, the second of which – Cheap Thrills – stayed at the top of the US charts for 8 weeks. Temporarily folding in late 1968 saw Janis going solo, although her alcohol and substance abuse was becoming increasingly pronounced. Although this affected some minor performances, it didn’t stop her selling out at three majors – London’s Royal Albert Hall, the Newport Festival and the New Orleans Pop Festival – and giving subliminal performances at others including Woodstock (August 1969)

Late in 1969 she released ‘I got dem ol’ kosmic blues again’ which made the US top 5 and, early the following year, formed her new band – The Full-Tilt Boogie Band. However, before the band’s debut album was completed, Janis Joplin died from an accidental overdose on 4th October 1970.

Post-humously, her last recording – ‘Pearl’ – was released early in 1971 topping the US charts for 9 weeks and featuring ‘Mercedes Benz’, a tune which, amongst others, had become a standard for her live performances.


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