Janis Joplin (1943-1970)
When Janis Joplin learned to sing in the church choir in her hometown of Port Arthur, Texas no one would have predicted her ending in 1970 due to a drug overdose. Welcome to the 27 club!
As it turned out, right around the time she reached puberty, Joplin acquired acne, some extra weight, and a rebellious attitude to go along with her musical gifts. As a teen, Joplin eschewed typical 1950s fashions and gained a reputation for being sexually promiscuous, tough talking, and hard drinking. She had a circle of male friends who shared her interest in beat culture and music.
Joplin’s college years in the early 60's were devoted more to partying and drinking than to pursuing studies. Her musical endeavors began to blossom during a stint at the University of Texas at Austin where she developed her gutsy, hard charging singing style that contrasted with the soft, folksy singing of most female musicians of the time. She later bounced around the music scenes of San Francisco and New York where she got some gigs and a taste for amphetamine, along with other recreational drugs.
After a brief time back in Port Arthur to try to steady herself, she went back to San Francisco where she became a member of a psychedelic rock band called Big Brother and the Holding Company. She started as a background musician, but soon assumed a more prominent role. Along with that role in the spotlight, her addictions grew as well, to such an extent that she began drinking bourbon right out of a bottle while on stage. Largely due to Joplin’s talent, Big Brother got its first big record deal in 1968.
Feeling that Big Brother was holding her back, Joplin soon left the band to pursue a solo career. Her performance at Woodstock led to her first solo album, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! The album was released to mixed reviews and Joplin began to feel the pressure of being a solo female artist in a male dominated industry.
Her next album, Pearl, was her most successful. It was also released posthumously. Joplin’s hard living, hard drugging lifestyle finally caught up with her when she overdosed on heroin on October 4, 1970, at Hollywood's infamous Landmark Hotel. Pearl contains Joplin’s most famous song, “Me and Bobby McGee,” written by her former lover Kris Kristofferson. She was just 27 and in spite of, or perhaps even because of, her untimely death, Joplin’s music endures to this day.