Janis Joplin was dubbed the first queen of rock ‘n’ roll and being ahead of the times inspired countless women in rock. One of the landmark appearances by her was her performance at the Woodstock music festival in 1969, when she sang 2 am in the Sunday morning of August 17. Despite her untimely death, Joplin’s songs continue to attract new fans and collections, including In Concert (1971) and Box of Pearls (1999), have been released over the years. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously in 1995 and several books and documentaries have come out on her life and music, including Love, Janis (1992), written by her sister Laura Joplin and Janis: Little Girl Blue, a documentary by Amy Berg, that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2015.
I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! was Joplin’s first solo album released in September ’69, with the Kozmic Blues Band. Some memorable songs in that album are Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) and To Love Somebody, which is a cover song of a Bee Gees tune. Janis received mixed reviews for the solo effort and she was under pressure to prove herself as a female solo artist in a male-dominated industry. “It was really important, you know, whether people were going to accept me or not,” Janis later said, in what was to be her last interview just four days before her accidental heroin overdose death at the Landmark Hotel in Hollywood. For a long time she appeared to be struggling with alcohol and drugs, including addiction to heroin.
But, in fact, her last album was Pearl that came after the Kozmic Blues album, and was recorded with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, for which she wrote two of the songs, the powerful, rocking Move over, and the gospel-styled satire of consumerism, Mercedes Benz. It was released after her death, in 1971, and became a big hit, with the single Me and Bobby McGee, written by Joplin’s former love Kris Kristofferson, reaching the top of the charts. Other albums were Cheap Thrills (1968), recorded with the first band she joined, the Big Brother and the Holding Company. It was wildly successful with songs like Piece of My Heart and Summertime and her reputation as a bluesy rock singer grew with the album.
Janis Joplin was born on January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas and developed a love for music at an early age, singing as a child in her church choir. She liked to stand out from the crowd and gave up popular girls’ fashion of the late ’50s and chose to wear men’s shirts and tights, or short skirts. She became a subject of the school rumour mill, but eventually made a group of guy friends who shared her interest in music and the Beat Generation, which rejected standard norms and emphasized creative expression.
By high school Joplin had developed a reputation as a courageous, tough-talking girl who liked to drink and be outrageous. Later, studying art at the University of Texas, she began performing at folksings, where anyone can perform, on campus and it was there her forceful singing style caught the attention of audience members as it was unlike any other white female vocalist at the time.
A great quote from her relevant to those times says – “Being an intellectual creates a lot of questions and no answers. You can fill your life up with ideas and still go home lonely. All you really have that really matters are feelings. That’s what music is to me.”
Seth David Morgan was Janis Joplin’s fiancé at the time of her death in October ’70, at age 27 years. He had won acclaim for his first novel, ‘Homeboy’, which drew on his experiences in the drug culture of San Francisco and in prison.
This year some of the messages sent on her death anniversary are from:
Nancy King Pottratz – “Beautiful bohemian woman who was never afraid to be herself her true self… with much respect for your honesty in music and in life… God bless you and rest in peace.”
Courtney McWilliams-Hastings – “She put everything she had into her songs! I really miss her.”
And Mary Guerrero who simply says – “Luv this girl.”
John Winston Ono Lennon (9 October, 1940 – 8 December, 1980) was an English singer, songwriter and peace activist who was the founder, co-lead vocalist, and rhythm guitarist of the Beatles.
Though mania would have a negative connotation, when associated with ‘Beatlesmania’ it was a feeling, or state of mind, that caused transformation in the thinking and assured, especially the younger generation, a life set aside from the mental confines of home, school and elders in the ’60s and ’70s. The meaning of it has never been lost on the youngsters ever since, and even decades hence today, the Beatles songs are still considered the beginning of education in music, and for millions of fans around the world, inseparable even in the maturity of life.
The co-collaborators in the song-writing Paul McCartney and John Lennon came up with some of the most popular lyrics in musical history. In later years when the Beatles broke up John took a five-year hiatus from 1975-80, and returned in a collaboration with his wife Yoko Ono in 1980, with Double Fantasy. He came out with songs like Give Peace a Chance, Instant Karma, Imagine, Happy Xmas (War is Over) and Cold Turkey before that period in 1969-70. Earlier in 1967 All You Need is Love was adopted as an anthem by the anti-war movement and counterculture. During 1969 he held a two week-long anti-war demonstration Bed-Ins for Peace. Three weeks after Double Fantasy’s release he was shot and killed at the entrance to his Manhattan apartment building, apparently by a mentally deranged person. Before that the Nixon government tried, for three years, to deport him from his new home – the US, for his criticism of the Vietnam War.
As a songwriter, co-writer and performer, John had 25 singles that were on top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and Double Fantasy, his best-selling album, won the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Also, Rolling Stone ranked him the fifth-greatest singer and thirty-eighth greatest artist of all time, apart from a BBC poll voting him eighth among 100 Greatest Britons. The band’s first single Love Me Do reached No. 17 on the British charts and in the following year in 1963 Twist and Shout was recorded in their debut album Please Please Me. Help in ’65 was followed by Strawberry Fields Forever in ’67, hailed by Time magazine, and the album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which one noticed was no more like the love songs of earlier years. All You Need is Love followed, before a satellite audience of 400 million for the Our World broadcast. Also, the television film Magical Mystery Tour in the same year was a flop, but the soundtrack featuring Lennon’s Lewis Carroll-inspired I Am the Walrus was a big success.
Other inspired songs by John include Julia, Jealous Guy, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, I saw her standing there, Stand by Me, (Just Like) Starting Over, and Mind Games. Gimme Some Truth: The Ultimate Remixes is a double CD that’s come out for John’s 80th birthday. It’s supposed to be quite exciting. As a music fan and reviewer says, “Anything that keeps John’s memory alive is so important.”
Some of the messages that came on John’s 80th birthday on October 9 are:
John Rollins – “I’m sad when I think about how much we lost. I try instead to just appreciate the joy this man still brings to my life. This Friday would have been John’s 80th birthday. Thanks John.”
Enig Ma – “When I was a child, and saw him with his band mates, I never thought that they’ll ever come a day when they wouldn’t be together, they’re a part of my childhood, every time I heard their music it made me smile, when I heard about his death, flashes of my childhood went through my head, along with the song, All We Need Is Love, and Imagine, it’s a blessing to have been there to witness such great Artists.”
James Steer – “I was lucky enough to meet him once when he lived in Rochester UK. He was just an average guy, incredibly normal & unpretentious. I think every radio station should play ‘Imagine’ every day, and maybe, just maybe those dreams will come true.”
Brenda Keitt – “I was around 9 when they appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’. Even at that age, I took one look at him and thought ‘Oh-oh!’