What can I say about Janis Joplin that hasn’t already been said? I love a lot of female vocalists across many diverse musical genres, but Janis is at the top of the mountain for me. Pinpointing why is kind of tricky, because it was a special combination of attributes. She had a voice that she was still learning to harness the full power of while recording Pearl, which was released after her death. There was certainly technique in her singing, but there was also character, fearlessness, vulnerability, reckless abandon, and a fragility that was tragic. You wanted to see her succeed, because she wasn’t supposed to. The odds were against her from the beginning, but she was special, and she found her voice and her people (even though it wasn’t enough to ultimately save her). I know I’m not alone in wondering what else she would have achieved, but I’m also so very thankful for what she left us. Pearl is a beauty of an album, filled with a woman who had triumphed on her own terms. Janis never got to fully realize all the love that people had for her. I wonder if it would have saved her if she had…

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz

Joplin, Janis

Writers: Janis Joplin, Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth Recorded: 1970

It’s Thursday, Oct. 1, at the Sunset Sound recording studio in Los Angeles. Janis Joplin asks producer Paul Rothchild to roll tape. She has a song she’d like to sing. The services of backing band Full Tilt Boogie, present and ready for action, will not be necessary. Joplin steps to the microphone and makes a declaration. “I’d like to do a song of great social and political import,” she says, a twinkle in her eye. “It goes like this.” Then she begins to sing, exercising soulful control over her enormous, whiskey-soaked voice: “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz? / My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends …

“Mercedes Benz” is a lonely blues tune about the illusory happiness promised (but rarely delivered) by the pursuit of worldly goods, a hippie-era rejection of the consumerist ideals that Joplin saw growing up as a self-described “middle-class white chick” in Port Arthur, Texas. She had come to California in the early ’60s and quickly earned a place as one of the leading musical lights in a generation that shared her utopian anti-materialism. When Joplin sang, in the second and third verses of “Mercedes Benz,” for “a color TV” and “a night on the town,” she knew all too well that neither would bring her peace. “It’s the want of something that gives you the blues,” she once said. “It’s not what isn’t, it’s what you wish was that makes unhappiness.”

She began finding the words to express that complex impulse while on tour on the opposite side of the country: in New York City, during a game of pool with friends Rip Torn and Emmett Grogan. The two were singing a memory-mangled version of a song by poet Michael McClure. Mostly what they remembered was the first line: “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?” Joplin loved it and began singing along herself.

Once back in California, Joplin and friend Bob Neuwirth took the fragment of McClure’s lyric and fleshed it out into a full song. Joplin called McClure at his home in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, seeking his approval. “Would you sing me your version?” he said. She did. “Well, I prefer my version,” he responded, and proceeded to sing his original through the telephone line (accompanying himself on autoharp). “I prefer my version!” she informed him with a cackle. It was settled: The two renditions would coexist in peace.

When Joplin set about preparing to record a new album in late summer 1970, the stakes were high. She had made her name as the firebrand frontwoman of San Francisco’s Big Brother and the Holding Company from 1966 through late 1968, but her subsequent solo career had not been as well received. She now entrusted her fate to Doors producer Rothchild, who began by insisting that she record at Sunset Sound—not at her record label CBS’s own studio, as was required of its artists at the time. CBS president Clive Davis reluctantly allowed the rule to be transgressed.

Janis Joplin- Mercedes Benz

 

In the following weeks, Joplin and Full Tilt Boogie powered through the recording of strong new songs like her own “Move Over” and Kris Kristofferson’s country-flavored “Me and Bobby McGee.” By Oct. 1, 1970, the album was practically in the bag—in addition to “Mercedes Benz,” the only other recording Joplin bothered with that day was an ersatz-cocktail rendition of “Happy Trails” intended as a present for John Lennon’s 30th birthday eight days later.

“It wasn’t a sad and tragic time,” Rothchild recalled in 1992 (three years before his death). “Fun was the underlying thing.” But the jovial atmosphere in the studio hid a secret: After a period of abstinence, Joplin had resumed the heroin habit that had dogged her throughout much of 1969. She explained to a friend that she was only using it to keep from drinking so much during the making of the album; alcohol hangovers hindered her performance in the studio.

On Oct. 3, Full Tilt Boogie laid down a backing track for the Nick Gravenites tune “Buried Alive in the Blues”; Joplin was set to lay down her vocal the following day. Work finished at around 11 p.m., and the star returned to her room at the Landmark Motor Hotel. There she passed away from a heroin overdose during the night. She was 27. Rothchild and company fought through their shock and grief to spend the next two weeks applying the remaining overdubs needed to complete the album. The result was dubbed Pearl, after a nickname she had lately adopted.

Outside the hotel on the night of her death sat Joplin’s car: not a Mercedes, but a Porsche she had bought in 1968 and paid friend Dave Richards $500 to paint in psychedelic colors. The hippie icon who sang, “My friends all drive Porsches,” was herself well aware of the real—if fleeting—pleasures to be found behind the wheel.

 

Janis Joplin's Psychedelic Porsche Sold for $1.8 Million

Janis Joplin’s Psychedelic Porsche

“She’d go against traffic on blind curves, with the top down,” Rothchild recalled, “laughing, ‘Nothing can knock me down!’

By Chris Neal

 

Janis Joplin, The Pearl Heart

Janis Lyn Joplin  January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was an American singer considered the premier female blues vocalist of the Sixties; her raw, powerful and uninhibited singing style, combined with her turbulent and emotional lifestyle, made her one of the biggest female stars in her lifetime. She died of a drug overdose in 1970 after releasing only four albums.In the summer of 1966, Janis Joplin was a drifter; four years later, she was a rock-and-roll legend. She’d gone from complete unknown to generational icon on the strength of a single, blistering performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in the summer of 1967, and she’d followed that up with three years of touring and recording that cemented her status as, in the words of one critic, “second only to Bob Dylan in importance as a creator/recorder/embodiment of her generation’s history and mythology.”

 

Janis Joplin – Ball And Chain (Amazing Performance at Monterey)

 

Born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1943, Janis Joplin made her way to San Francisco in 1966, where she fell in with a local group called Big Brother and the Holding Company. It was with this group that she would become famous, first through her legendary performance of “Ball And Chain” at Monterey and then with the 1968 album Cheap Thrills. She soon split off to launch a solo career, however, her personality and her voice being far too big to be contained within a group.”I’d rather not sing than sing quiet,” she once said in comparing herself to one of her musical idols. “Billie Holliday was subtle and refined. I’m going to shove that power right into you, right through you and you can’t refuse it.” But if sheer abandon was Janis Joplin’s vocal trademark, she nevertheless always combined it with a musicality and authenticity that lent her music a great deal more soul than much of what the psychedelic era produced.But it was never just music, or the passion she displayed in performing it, that made Janis Joplin an icon. It was the no-holds-barred gusto with which she lived every other aspect of her life as well. Far from being an empty cliché, “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” was a revolutionary philosophy to many in the late 1960s, and Janis Joplin was its leading female exponent. Her string of romantic conquests ranged from Kris Kristofferson to Dick Cavett. Her drug and alcohol consumption was prolific. And the rock and roll she produced was timeless, from “Piece Of My Heart,” “Get It While You Can” and “Mercedes Benz” to her biggest  hit, “Me And My Bobby McGee.”

In the autumn of 1970, Janis Joplin was in Los Angeles putting the finishing touches on the album that would prove to be the biggest hit of her career, Pearl. She did not live to see the album’s release, however. On this day in 1970, she died of an accidental heroin overdose and was discovered in her Los Angeles hotel room after failing to show for a scheduled recording session. She was 27 years old.

 

Janis Joplin – Cry Baby


 

Janis Joplin,  often referred to as the “Queen of Rock and Roll,” is best remembered for her rebellious lifestyle, her psychedelic Porsche, her free flowing fashion sense and above all, her distinctive voice. Here are 10 things we bet you didn’t know about her:

1. She Made Certain Her Biggest Influence Got a Proper Tribute

One of Joplin’s biggest influences was blues singer Bessie Smith, who’s been hailed as ‘The Empress of the Blues.’ In 1937 Smith died from severe injuries due to a car accident and sadly was buried in an unmarked grave, where she remained until August 1970. Joplin and Juanita Green (who as a child had done housework for Smith) paid for a proper tombstone to be erected on Smith’s gravesite.

2. Her Last Recording Was a Birthday Greeting for John Lennon

The last recordings Joplin completed were ‘Mercedes-Benz’ and a birthday greeting for John Lennon. On Oct. 1, 1970, Joplin recorded the old Dale Evans cowboy tune ‘Happy Trails’ for the former Beatle, which is sort of spooky given the lyrics are “Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.” The tune was titled ‘Happy Birthday, John (Happy Trails)’ and released on the Janis box set in 1993. Lennon told talk show host Dick Cavett that her taped greeting arrived at his home after her passing.

3. Her Ashes Were Scattered in the Deep Blue Sea

Joplin was cremated in the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Mortuary in Los Angeles, Calif. Her ashes were scattered from a plane into the Pacific Ocean and along Stinson Beach. There was a private funeral service, but it was only attended by Joplin’s parents and her aunt.

4. She Was Rewarded for Repeatedly Passing Out

Joplin was a heavy drinker, and Southern Comfort was her drink of choice. The whiskey became so synonymous with the singer, and she therefore boosted the company’s sales to such an extent, that she managed to get them to give her a lynx coat as a thank-you. (This is pre-PETA, we’re guessing!)

5. She Was Getting Tattooed Long Before it Was Trendy

In April of 1970, Joplin was tattooed by legendary artist Lyle Tuttle. He inked a famous design on Janis’ outer wrist in his shop on Seventh Street in San Francisco. The symbol stands for the liberation of women. She also had a small heart tattooed over her left breast.  “I wanted some decoration. See, the one on my wrist is for everybody; the one on my tit is for me and my friends.” She paused and chuckled, “Just a little treat for the boys, like icing on the cake.”

6. “All Is /loneliness, Comes Straight from Her Heart

Janis was overall a very lonely young woman in spite of all the people surrounding her. She loved men (to put it nicely) and had several lovers but in many ways was very much a loner. “Onstage, I make love to 25,000 people – then I go home alone.”

7. You Could’ve Seen Her Perform at Woodstock for $8.00

A Variety Magazine image pictured on janisjoplin.net reveals that Joplin was to be paid $7500 for performing at Woodstock, although it’s been said that many of the performers were never paid. Do you know what it would’ve cost you to attend Woodstock? A mere $8.00 would’ve bought you admission for one day, or you could’ve been the big spender and paid $18.00 for a three day ticket.

8. Treated Billie Holiday’s Biography “Like a Bible.”

Two other people that heavily influenced Joplin were Billie Holiday and Leadbelly. Joplin has claimed that the first album she ever bought was a Leadbelly record. In regards to Holiday, one of the two books that Joplin took to San Francisco with her was Holiday’s autobiography ‘Lady Sings The Blues.’ Joplin’s friend Richard Hundgen believes it was like a Bible to her, and said that she kept it all her life.

9. ‘Cheap Thrills’ Was Originally Titled Something Else

The album ‘Cheap Thrills’ was originally supposed to be titled ‘Sex, Dope And Cheap Thrills’ but Columbia Records didn’t go for two-thirds of that. Since advocating cheap thrills didn’t threaten them as much as the other two, that became the LP’s title instead.

10. She Dissed Jim Morrison – Twice!

The Doors frontman Jim Morrison was physically turned on to Joplin after she busted a bottle of Southern Comfort over his head, knocking him out cold. Morrison, loving the physical confrontation and her violent attitude, seemed to be in love. The day after this strange encounter during rehearsals, he asked producer Paul Rothchild for her phone number. Joplin had no intent on getting together with Morrison again and as it turns out, they never did. Morrison was reportedly heartbroken.

 

Janis Joplin – Summertime Live

 

This photo of Janis Joplin, wearing only beads and folding her hands strategically below her waist, became her most representative image when it was published in 1972, after her death. The iconic shot, captured by photographer and graphic designer Bob Seidemann in 1967, offers a poignant glimpse back at hippie idealism. According to Seidemann, he’d wanted just to shoot Joplin topless, but she insisted on full nudity. “That’s the way she was,” the photographer said.

janis-joplin-tumblr_nihx1gsIbj1s1ai6bo1_r1_1280

Via: Wikipedia, Rolling Stone Magazine & Janis Joplin

Christy Lee