This essay was written by me for my History of Rock and Roll class. It is not in it's entirety. I am proud to say that I received 100% for this essay. I cannot take complete credit for this essay. I have to thank Janis herself for without her, this essay would never have been written.
Janis will live on forever in our hearts.
Janis Lyn Joplin was born to Seth and Dorothy Joplin on January 19, 1943 at 9:45am at St. Mary's Hospital in Port Arthur, Texas. Seth and Dorothy would have 2 more children; Laura and Michael.
As a child, Janis was timid. She was also very intellegent as well as artistic. Around the age of 8, Janis was taking art lessons. She received straight-A's in school, sang in a choir, loved to read and spent a lot of time helping out at the library and at the church. Janis was so smart that at one point during her elementary school years, she skipped a grade.
Janis tried very hard to fit in during her high school years. She was not pretty nor charming. She was overweight, the youngest in her class and had a serious case of acne. This caused the students to make fun of her. On the outside, Janis pretended that she didn't care. But inside, she was deeply hurt by the rejections she suffered.
Janis always dressed and acted differently. She was like "one of the guys." She was crude, loud, drank and most of all she was gaining weight. Janis would do just about anything to be noticed and to belong, which continued throughout her life. It came to a point where most of the students hated her. She then fell into a group of 5 boys and they remained her close friends.
Janis began attending school part-time during her Senior year at Thomas Jefferson High School. At this point in her life, she realized her potential. She began to sell her paintings and to sing. In May of 1960, Janis graduated from high school. That fall, Janis attended Lamar College in Beaumont, Texas for one year. Janis soon became unhappy and restless. In the summer of 1961, her parents paid her way to Los Angeles. Within a few weeks, Janis moved into the Beatnik area in Venice. In the fall of 1961, Janis moved her studies to the University of Texas in Austin. There, she found kinder folk who seemed to understand the beatnik philosophy of life that Janis followed. It was there that she also began singing and playing autoharp at local bars.
The summer of 1962, Janis returned to Port Arthur. She began singing in public and even made a commercial recording for a local bank. At night, she was a waitress. In the fall of 1962, Janis returned to the University of Texas.
In the winter of early 1963, after being voted "ugliest man on campus" by small minded, petty students, Janis decided to hitchhike to San Francisco with Chet Helms. Janis spent 2 years singing soulful, emotional blues-country to the bohemians of the early San Francisco beat scene. Janis had also developped an addiction to speed and was near starvation. The speed eventually took over her life. She lost an incredible amount of weight and became like a vegetable. (She was quoted as being "an 88 pound, spastic speed freak") In 1965, Janis was so strung out that her friends held a collection to buy her a bus ticket home so she could straighten herself up.
Janis returned to Port Arthur and attempted to get off speed. This attempt failed; but in the mean time, she dressed and acted more lady-like. Janis's stay in Port Arthur was short-lived. In June of 1966, Janis hitchhiked back to San Francisco at the request of Chet Helms. Chet had become a successful promoter and knew of an already established rock band by the name of Big Brother and the Holding Company, looking for a "chick singer." It was with Big Brother that Janis finally reached fame in San Francisco. During this time, she began hanging out with a band called The Grateful Dead and had continued to use speed, eventually moving on to heroin.
In late 1966, Big Brother was offered a recording contract with a small record company by the name of Mainstream. They recorded and album (self-titled) in early 1967 but it was not released immediately. Mainstream would not release the record until Big Brother was known nationally. Needless to say, Big Brother did not stay with this company very long. (Eventually, Big Brother's record was released in September 1967, under the Mainstream label.)
In June of 1967, Big Brother performed at the Monterey Pop Festival along with other soon-to-be-famous rock bands. There, Janis distinguished herself with her energetic performance and quickly rose to stardom. Soon there-after, Big Brother's Mainstream contract was in a bidding war which Colombia Records won. Big Brother recorded and released their second album titled Cheap Thrills in September, 1968. The album became a best seller in 1968, selling a million copies in the U.S. alone. (Some trivia for Janis fans: the original title for Cheap Thrills was Sex, Dope and Cheap Thrills)
Soon after the release of Cheap Thrills, Janis announced that she was going solo. She immediately formed a band called The Kosmic Blues Band. She appeared at Woodstock in August of 1969. Janis and her band began an extensive tour of Europe and the U.S. Life on the road began to wear her down. She began to drink more heavily and took more heroin. She got into trouble with the police, usually at performances. In Tampa, Florida, Janis got slapped with 2 indictments for the use of "vulgar and indecent language." Janis would also encourage the audience to get up and dance. (This was not permitted; usually in violation of fire codes, but Janis encouraged them on anyways.) In the fall of 1969, Janis and The Kosmic Blues Band recorded an album called I Got Dem Ol' Kosmic Blues Again Mama! The Kosmic Blues Band was short-lived;in early 1970, Janis dissolved it.
In April, 1970, Janis's third and final band was formed. They were called Full-Tilt Boogie Band. Janis felt that this was the finest band she's ever had. The band toured for a few months before going to Los Angeles to record and album. It was around this time when Janis began to talk about suicide as well as being tired and scared and wanting to quit. During the summer of 1970, Full-Tilt began recording Pearl which was named after Janis's drinking, road-fluesy, alter ego.
On October 4, 1970, Janis was late for a recording session. Her band knew something was wrong because Janis was too professional for that. She was found dead in her hotel room by the band's road manager, John Cooke, at the Landmark Hotel in Los Angeles.
Janis died of a heroin overdose complicated by alcohol. (Heroin converts into morphine after entering the body. Alcohol was also present in the blood and her liver showed the effects of long-term, heavy drinking.
The album that she was recording at the time, Pearl, was released posthumously in January, 1971. It included the #1 hit, "Me and Bobby McGee." Pearl became her biggest seller; it held the #1 position for 9 weeks in 1971. (Some more trivia: 1 track on the album, "Burried Alive in the Blues," remains instrumental because Janis was to record the vocals on October 5, 1970.)
Janis's remains were cremated and to her wishes, the ashes were scattered by air along the coastline of Marin County, California.
Other Info/Trivia on Janis