June 15, 2024


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Who was Janis Joplin? America, to make people believe that I was a blues singer: Videos

News that the singer had died of a heroin overdose prompted Geoffrey Cannon to recall the time he met Joplin in London.

04.10. Janis Joplin passed away: An evening at the Royal Garden Hotel in April, 18 months ago. I was meeting Janis Joplin. I fished around for a while, trying to get replies from her. She was rude. Then I suddenly realised what was difficult to believe. The biggest female name in rock – which is what she was, then – had stage fright.

I asked her why. She said that it was easy, in America, to make people believe that she was a blues singer. She said that reputations came cheap there. In England, for years, she said, authentic blues had been sustained by an audience that really understood blues. And she was, for the first time, waiting to sing, across the road, at the Albert Hall, for an audience she feared because she trusted them: and so she doubted her own ability. “It’s like your very first date,” she said. “The very first one. You understand? No, you don’t.”

Piece of my heart (live) – Janis Joplin, Germany, 1969

The next evening, I understand. After her first album, “Big Brother and the Holding Company,” she got caught up in an image machine that hurt more than we knew at the time “Cheap Thrills,” the first album to star her as a solo artist, was received here as an overblown piece of work. Around Christmas, 1968, it had been chic to play “Ball and Chain,” the featured track. It seemed to me to meander purposelessly. She made mincemeat of the music.

On stage, at the Albert Hall, she appeared tiny in the spotlight, wearing an electric blue jumpsuit. All at once, she tried to gather all of her audience inside herself, settling for nothing less: squeezing her voice dry, her arms pumping, her hands in fists. She stumbled back from the microphone, as if at the rate of her and her band’s own decibel volume. Then, somehow, and there’s no way to explain how it was achieved, the sound focused, and pointed down the auditorium like a locomotive, directed at and then into us in the audience. That is what couldn’t be heard on record.

Yes, there is a comparison between Janis Joplin, whose death was announced yesterday, and Jimi Hendrix, but not the one that may be made by other commentators. The question now is: how much of themselves can rock musicians give in their music, to their audience, and survive? “Rolling Stone” magazine, a while ago, labelled a feature on Janis Joplin “The Judy Garland of Rock.” That headline is rather dreadful, now. Janis knew what she was doing, at the Albert Hall, and at all her other concerts. She was demanding too much. I’d like, now, to have settled for less.

June 25, 1970: Wearing a purple suit, countless bracelets and a pink feather boa in her hair, Janis Joplin had a chat with TV show host Dick Cavett. He asked if she often returned to her hometown, Port Arthur Arthur, Texas. No, Joplin said, excitedly adding that she was planning on going back for her 10th annual high school reunion. Asked about her former schoolmates, she said, “They laughed me out of class, out of town and out of the state. Now I’m gonna laugh.” It was a moment of triumph and of pain in the life of the megastar.

The class reunion at the Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur was filmed. She showed up in her typical eccentric hippie style — obviously a colorful foreign body among the rest of her former elegantly dressed classmates. Interviewed that day, she was asked who invited her to the prom back then: “No one,” she replied. It appeared to still hurt.

Read more: Rolling Stone magazine turns 50: ‘We wanted to find a voice’ Born on January 19, 1943 in the oil refinery town of Port Arthur, Janis Lyn Joplin was able to read before she went to school.

As a 14-year-old chubby girl with severe acne, she was bullied in school. She was interested in art and literature, and wrote poetry. “I started singing when I was about 17. I could sing. It was a surprise — to say the least,” she later said. She hadn’t realized how powerful her voice was.

Her inner liberation from her conservative milieu would eventually be noticeable in her appearance: Janis dyed her hair orange, wore men’s clothes or shaggy dresses. The girl who had an inferiority complex decided to start attracting attention. Parents didn’t want their children to hang out with her; she was a bad influence.

Janis finished high school and trained as a secretary. She later studied art at the University of Texas in Austin. There, her provocative appearance led her to be named “the university’s ugliest man” in a frat boys’ satire magazine.

At the age of 18 she moved to San Francisco — culturally light years away from Port Arthur, Texas — and became the icon of the hippie movement. Her music felt like an earthquake in the music scene. The unpopular high school girl eventually landed on the cover of Newsweek magazine. The article titled “Rebirth of Blues,” described her as rock’s first female superstar, adding that at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Music Festival, “a volatile viol of nitroglycerine named Janis Joplin blew the rock world wide open.”

Joplin’s blitz careers lasted five year. She sold 15.5 million albums in the US alone and obtained international recognition — all while living a self-destructive lifestyle.

It was later revealed that she wrote many letters to her parents during that period, constantly craving for their recognition. As the singer would drink whisky and swear onstage, she wasn’t allowed to perform in Houston, Texas, and her parents found her provocative behavior appalling as well. Her family nevertheless stood by her until the end.


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