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Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943 - October 4, 1970) was a blues-influenced rock and soul singer and occasional songwriter with a particularly distinctive voice. Born in Port Arthur, Texas, United States of America, Joplin released four albums as the frontwoman for several bands from 1967 through to a posthumous release in 1971.

Having grown up listening to blues musicians such as Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton and singing in the local choir, Joplin began singing blues and folk music with friends at college in Austin, Texas. Cultivating a rebellious manner that could be viewed as liberated, Joplin styled herself after the beat poets, left Texas for San Francisco in 1963, lived in North Beach, and worked occasionally as a folk singer. Around this time her drug use began to increase, and she acquired a reputation as a speed freak and occasional heroin user. Though she used other intoxicants, she was a heavy drinker throughout her career, and her trademark beverage was Southern Comfort.

After a brief return to Port Arthur and a failed engagement she again moved to San Francisco in 1966, where her bluesier vocal style saw her join Big Brother and The Holding Company, who were gaining some renown amongst the nascent hippie community in Haight-Ashbury. The band signed a deal with independent Mainstream Records and recorded an eponymously titled album in 1967. However, the lack of success of their early singles led to the album being withheld, until after their subsequent success.

The band's big break came at the Monterey Pop Festival, which included a version of Thornton's Ball and Chain featuring a barnstorming vocal by Joplin. Their 1968 album Cheap Thrills featured more raw emotional performances and made Joplin's name.

Splitting from Big Brother she formed a sequence of bands, including Full Tilt Boogie who backed her on 1969's I Got Dem Old Kozmic Blues Again Mama and the posthumously released Pearl (1971), which featured a hit single in the form of Kris Kristofferson's Me and Bobby McGee and the wry social commentary of Mercedes-Benz, written by beat poet Michael McClure.

Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970 in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 27. She was cremated in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California, and her ashes scattered into the Pacific ocean in a burial at sea. The movie The Rose, with Bette Midler playing the Joplin character, was based on her life.

She is now remembered best for her powerful, distinctive voice, significantly divergent from the soft folk-influenced styles most common at the time, as well as her lyrical themes of pain and loss.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2004.

Janis Joplin Facts

Birth NameJanis Lyn Joplin
BirthdayJanuary 19, 1943
BirthplacePort Arthur, Texas, USA
Date of deathOctober 4, 1970 (age 27)

Selected Filmography

Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin with Big Brother: Ball and Chain
Nine Hundred Nights
Big Brother & The Holding Company feat.Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin In Woodstock
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