Janis Joplin

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Janis Joplin (1969)

Janis Lyn Joplin (born January 19, 1943 in Port Arthur , Texas , † October 4, 1970 in Los Angeles , California ) was an American rock and blues singer .


Janis Joplin was born in East Texas in 1943 , the daughter of Seth Ward Joplin, an employee of the Texaco oil company , and Dorothy Joplin (née East), who had dropped out of vocal training and worked as an office worker. She had a younger sister and a younger brother.

In her childhood she turned to art (especially poetry), read a lot and sang in the church choir. Her mother relied on her older daughter's talent for drawing and made sure she got private art lessons. Joplin stated that she was ostracized and bullied in high school . As a teenager, she was overweight and suffered from acne that left scars and required dermabrasion . Other kids in high school ridiculed her and called her "pig", "freak", "nigger lover" or "disgust". She said:

“I was an outsider. I've read, I've painted, I've thought. I didn't hate niggers. "

- Janis Joplin

Eventually she discovered blues and folk music for herself.

After graduating from high school in 1960 , she moved to California at the age of 18 to become a singer. She had her first public appearance in late 1961 at the Halfway House in Beaumont , Texas. She tried a few colleges , but dropped out prematurely. Then she moved to Los Angeles . She sang, accompanied by Jorma Kaukonen (guitarist for Jefferson Airplane ) in pubs and folk clubs. Autodidactically trained through records by Leadbelly , Odetta Holmes and Bessie Smith , her greatest role model, she advanced to become the "Queen of white blues rock " with her uninhibited singing style, which was unique for a white singer .

After working as a waitress in Louisiana in 1962, Joplin returned to Texas to move into an Austin apartment that would later become known as The Ghetto . In college in Austin, she was noticed as an outsider because of her clothing. Leading students organized a campaign to vote her “the ugliest man on campus” and were successful.

In 1965 she performed with Dick Oxtot's jazz band . In the early summer of 1966, Chet Helms , an acquaintance since 1963 and manager of Big Brother and the Holding Company , called her and told her that the band was looking for a singer.

Big Brother and the Holding Company

1966 Joplin's career began when she to San Francisco moved and said band joined with which it 1967 successfully at Monterey Pop Festival occurred by a recording contract with Mainstream Records of Bob Shad received and there Big Brother & the Holding Company Featuring Janis Joplin brought out .

1968 followed for Columbia Records Cheap Thrills (front cover by Robert Crumb ). The second album already contained many of her well-known pieces such as the cover version of Erma Franklin's Piece of My Heart or Ball and Chain . After the studio recordings, Joplin traveled to Nepal , where she stayed in Kathmandu for a while in the autumn of 1968 (song line in Cry Baby : "... Honey, the road'll even end in Kathmandu").

Kozmic Blues Band

At the end of 1968 Janis Joplin separated from the band and, together with their record company, put together a larger band that had no name for a long time, but was called Kozmic Blues Band after the following third Joplin album . The reason for this was Joplin's ambition to develop new styles of music with a professional band with funk and blues instruments and to work more professionally. This was seen by the music magazine Rolling Stone , among others, as a betrayal of the ideals of rock music. In fact, the collaboration with the band didn't go very well as the musicians didn't know each other and Joplin had little experience both as a band leader and with arranging songs. Together they recorded the album I Got Dem Ol 'Kozmic Blues Again, Mama .

The band made their most famous appearance in 1969 at the Woodstock Festival . Joplin was heavily drunk at this gig, looked bloated, worn out and her voice often broke. For this reason, your record company initially refused permission to film this appearance in the documentary Woodstock . However, she made a remark about the hippie movement , which was often quoted later: "We used to be few, now there are masses and masses and masses of us." Some of the recordings of the Woodstock appearance were only released on Box of Pearls (1999 by Sony) or previously mostly published in 1993 on a posthumous CD (see discography ) by ITM.

Janis Joplin with Tom Jones in a duet on his show This Is Tom Jones (1969)

In 1969, Joplin appeared on television with Ed Sullivan and Dick Cavett . The interviews with Cavett can be heard on the posthumously released album Janis . Also in 1969, the Kozmic Blues Band went on a two-month European tour. Their only concert in Germany took place on April 12, 1969 in the Jahrhunderthalle in Frankfurt am Main . On the official website, the date April 12, 1969 is noted: “Kozmic Blues: two concerts in Frankfurt”. At the end of the concert organized by the Lippmann & Rau agency , Joplin asked the audience to stay, because a recording on American television followed. Recordings of this "second concert", at which she encouraged the fans to come on stage, can be seen in the film documentary Janis (1975). The track Raise Your Hand on the posthumously released LP Farewell Song was recorded live during the Frankfurt concert.

Also in 1969, Joplin was jailed in Tampa, Florida for insulting a police officer. At the subsequent trial, a court denounced Joplin's behavior as freedom of expression and dropped the charges. However, after a concert she was fined 200 US dollars for using obscene language and cursing on stage. In January 1970 the band broke up. To break her addiction to alcohol, heroin , stimulants and other drugs, Joplin planned a vacation in South America and traveled to Rio de Janeiro for the Carnival in February 1970 .

Full Tilt Boogie Band and Joplin's death

Back in California, Janis Joplin resumed her unsteady way of life. In April 1970, their third band, the Full Tilt Boogie Band , was put together. This turned out to be a stroke of luck for them. The team harmonized emotionally and musically. Road manager John Cooke: “The guys were looking for a band that was a home. They knew that Janis was the boss and they all liked each other right away. ”Janis Joplin seemed to have finally found her style of music. The songs with the Full Tilt Boogie Band would become their most successful. In the summer of 1970 she appeared in the Festival Express Train.

In September 1970, the band met at Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles to record their third Columbia LP, Pearl . On October 1, she recorded the a cappella song Mercedes Benz there. On October 3rd, shortly before the end of the studio recording, Joplin was in the Sunset Sound studio for the last time to listen to tapes with tracks that she would sing in the following days. When she didn't show up at the studio as agreed until the afternoon of the next day, John Cooke drove to the Landmark Motel (now the Highland Gardens Hotel ), where Joplin had been staying since August 24th, to check on her. He found her dead on the floor.

According to official sources, Janis Joplin died on October 4, 1970 of a heroin overdose. Joplin's body was cremated and the ashes on the California coast in the Bay of Marin County in the Pacific buried . The track Buried Alive in the Blues on the album Pearl is missing the vocal track that Joplin should have recorded on October 5, 1970.


Janis Joplin's 1965 Porsche 356 SC Cabriolet

Shortly before her death, Janis Joplin signed her will on October 1, 1970 in Beverly Hills . As requested, 200 friends drank the $ 1,500 cash they left behind at a party. The whereabouts of their other assets were clearly regulated, whereby parents and siblings were essentially considered. Lawyer Bob Gordon had strict instructions in particular for the payments to Joplin's younger brother Michael, who should be given a good education.

The well-known Janis Joplin Porsche 356 C 1600 SC, built in 1964, was auctioned off by the family through RM Sotheby’s for 1.76 million US dollars in December 2015 after 20 years of exhibiting in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in New York . The estimated price was only $ 400,000.


In addition to Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison , Janis Joplin was one of the central symbolic figures of the hippie era and hippie culture. All three shaped a lifestyle, which in retrospect was characterized by “ Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll ” and “ Live fast, love hard, die young ”. Because of her untimely death, she is counted as " Club 27 " like other influential musicians, including Hendrix and Morrison .

The Rolling Stone listed Joplin ranked 46 of the 100 greatest players of all time and ranked 28 of the 100 best singers of all time .


Janis Joplin visited the grave of Bessie Smith (1894–1937) in Mount Lawn Cemetery in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1970, shortly before her death . When she allegedly found out that the blues singer she admired had been buried anonymously, Janis had a tombstone placed for her with the inscription:

“The Greatest Blues Singer In The World Will Never Stop Singing - Bessie Smith - 1894–1937”

"The greatest blues singer in the world will never stop singing"

According to other sources, a Philadelphia nurse paid half of the tombstone, and Joplin, after a telephone call to ask, paid the other half.

In many photos you can see Janis Joplin with a bottle of Southern Comfort . Janis Joplin asked the manufacturing company whether they could get a little money for it, as this was good advertising. The liquor producer agreed and transferred her $ 6,000.

In San Francisco , Janis Joplin had a relationship with Country Joe McDonald , who later dedicated the song Janis to her. Leonard Cohen wrote the song Chelsea Hotel No. 2 .

Posthumous award

In 1995 Janis Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame .

On November 4, 2013, the 2510th star was unveiled on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, bearing Joplin's name. At the ceremony, in addition to relatives and fans, her discoverer Clive Davis and Kris Kristofferson , who sang Me and Bobby McGee again , were present.

In Vienna's new Seestadt Aspern district, the Janis-Joplin-Promenade along the Aspern Seepark was named after her.


  • 1967: Big Brother & the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin
  • 1968: Cheap Thrills
  • 1969: I Got Dem Ol 'Kozmic Blues Again, Mama!
  • 1971: Pearl
  • 1972: Live
  • 1973: Greatest Hits
  • 1975: Janis (soundtrack)
  • 1982: Farewell Song
  • 1993: Janis Joplin live at Woodstock August 17, 1969
  • 1999: Box of Pearls (albums 1–4 with additional tracks and CD 5 "Rare Pearls" )


  • 1970: Janis Joplin (television documentary), director: Reinhard Hauff
  • 1974: Janis - The Janis-Joplin-Story , directed by H. Alk, S. Findlay
  • 1979: The Rose (the fictional story is based on Janis Joplin's biography), directed by Mark Rydell
  • 2015: Janis - Little Girl Blue. (Documentary), directed by Amy Berg


  • Ellis Amburn: Pearl. The obsessions and passions of Janis Joplin; a portrait. Warner Books, New York 1995, ISBN 0-7515-0856-X .
  • Gottfried Blumenstein: Janis Joplin. Biography of a rock singer. Musikverlag Lied der Zeit, Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-7332-0040-3 .
  • Axel von Cossart (Ed.): Janis Joplin. Revolt, music, legend. Voco-Edition, Cologne 1991, ISBN 3-926566-00-0 .
  • David Dalton: Piece of My Heart. A portrait of Janis Joplin. Da Capo Press, New York 1991, ISBN 0-306-80446-8 .
  • Thomas Dittrich: Janis Joplin. Ashes into the sea. In: Siegfried Schmidt-Joos (Ed.): At the end of the rainbow. Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, Janis Joplin. Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main 1985, ISBN 3-548-36516-7 .
  • Alice Echols: Janis Joplin. Piece of my heart; the biography. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-596-15435-9 .
  • Myra Friedman: The Story of Janis Joplin. ("Buried Alive"). Hannibal-Verlag, St. Andrä-Wölker 2002, ISBN 3-85445-169-5 .
  • Heinz Geuen : Janis Joplin. Feeling life unrestrained. 2nd Edition. Econ Ullstein List Verlag, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-548-60185-5 .
  • George-Warren, Holly: Janis Joplin - Nothing left to lose; die Biographie , Munich: Droemer, March 2019, ISBN 978-3-426-27730-0
  • Laura Joplin (Janis' sister): Love, Janis. A wild short life; Biography with unpublished letters. Heyne, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-453-09207-4 .
  • Deborah Landau: Janis Joplin. Her life and times. Warner Books, New York 1974.
  • Ingeborg Schober : Janis Joplin. Dtv, Munich, 2002, ISBN 3-423-31065-0 .
  • Died: Janis Joplin . In: Der Spiegel . No. 42 , 1970 ( online ).

Web links

Commons : Janis Joplin  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Feminist Nightmares: Women at Odds in Google Book Search
  2. On this Day in Music History in Google Book Search
  3. ^ Paul Hendrickson: Janis Joplin: A Cry Cutting Through Time. In: The Washington Post , May 5, 1998.
  4. ^ Laura Joplin: Concert Dates. (No longer available online.) In: officialjanis.com (Official Janis Joplin Homepage). 2006, archived from the original on July 28, 2011 ; Retrieved January 18, 2009 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.officialjanis.com
  5. How Janis Joplin was arrested in Tampa 50 years ago Retrieved September 12, 2020 (English)
  6. ^ Janis Joplin's Mercedes Benz. Retrieved January 2, 2019 .
  7. Janis Joplin Haunted Hotel Room on onstagemagazine.com
  8. “Overdose Janis”: The Joplin died 40 years ago on zeit.de.
  9. Martin Tege: Janis Joplin's psychedelic Porsche is being auctioned - for 350,000 euros. In: rollingstone.de. Axel Springer Mediahouse Berlin GmbH, September 16, 2015, accessed on December 11, 2015 .
  10. 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Rolling Stone , December 2, 2010, accessed August 8, 2017 .
  11. 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Rolling Stone , December 2, 2010, accessed August 8, 2017 .
  12. ^ Photograph of the grave of Bessie Smith and short biography at Find A Grave .
  13. Myra Friedman: The Story of Janis Joplin . 1992, p. 268
  14. Janis Joplin at Country Joe's Place, accessed September 11, 2014
  15. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Janis Joplin in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  16. ^ Posthumous honor for Janis Joplin . dw.de
  17. Pearl ranked 125th in Rolling Stone's 500 greatest albums
  18. Nadine Lange: The documentary "Janis: Little Girl Blue": So much power, so much passion. Die Zeit , January 13, 2016, accessed on January 15, 2016 .