Janis Joplin had a reputation. She liked what she liked — men, Southern Comfort, speed, heroin, the Beats — and it eventually led to her downfall, making her a founding member of the 27 Club. However, she fit a lot of living into her short time, helping define the San Francisco sound and bringing her lady blues idols, like Bessie Smith, to the forefront of rock and roll.

Joplin’s life was one defined by heartbreak, which she channeled into wails of her work. Born and raised in Port Arthur, Texas, she discovered her voice in the bars of Austin while attending the University of Texas. At 20 years old, she went West, following her beloved Beats to San Francisco. She found a new voice there, and a man she loved, but she also found speed. So after just a few years, she went home to Texas to clean up. There was a brief engagement to her California love, and for a time she tried to be the good girl that her parents wanted, adopting a beehive hairdo and even getting started on a wedding quilt.

But when her relationship crumbled, she went back to the Bay Area, where she discovered a changed Haight-Ashbury.

“I wanted to feel as much as I can,” she said. “It’s what ‘soul’ is all about.”

And feel she did, quickly becoming one of the most visible leaders of the burgeoning Hippie movement as the singer of Big Brother & the Holding Company. They gained national recognition after their performance at the Monteray Pop Festival in 1967, and the following year she left to pursue a solo career, leading her to become a main attraction at Woodstock Festival in 1969.

But her hard lifestyle couldn’t last; on October 4, 1970 — just three weeks after Jimi Hendrix died in his London apartment — she was found dead in a Hollywood hotel room, from a heroin overdose.

While the last song she recorded was a tongue-in-cheek ode to commercialism (Mercedes Benz), when she was finishing up the record in the studio on October 1, she also laid down a little birthday tune for her friend John Lennon’s 30th  birthday — Dale Evans’ Happy Trails.

“’Til we meet again,” she sang. By the time the song made it to Lennon at his home in London, Janis was already gone.

 

Photo By Albert B. Grossman Management

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