Biography of Rock Star Janis Joplin Part 2

About the famous rock n' roll star Janis Joplin, history and biography of the singer songwriter.


JANIS JOPLIN (1943-1970)

She couldn't change enough to fit into the Port Arthur community, so she swung back to the opposite extreme when asked to return to San Francisco. Chet Helms was then part of an urban commune called the Family Dog, which held dances in the Avalon Ballroom. The core of the San Francisco psychedelic scene was its bands: the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and had decided they needed Janis to make their sound complete.

By 1967 the San Francisco sound was getting national attention. The bands were invited to the Monterey Pop Festival, and there the career of Big Brother and the Holding Company, specifically because of Janis's astounding performance, skyrocketed.

Janis's "one of the boys" image--her drinking, partying, drugs, language, crazy clothes, and lack of sexual inhibition--became part of her stage personality, her public style. But it was also used to hide her essential loneliness, as it had to a lesser degree back in Port Arthur. That style was acclaimed by the media; fans cheered it. Her appetites were compulsive, yet she became the archetype of the free-spirited, free-loving hippie.

As her career soared higher, Janis went through three bands, uncountable bottles, and innumerable male companions (including Country Joe McDonald, Joe Namath, and a man whom she described as "a big bear of a beatnik" with whom she spent two weeks in the jungle). She was addicted to heroin for a time. Her lifestyle became as famous as her singing. "Maybe," she commented once, "my audiences can enjoy my music more if they think I'm destroying myself."

She went back to Port Arthur one last time, just before her death. It was for her 10-year high school reunion.

Two months later she was recording an album in Los Angeles with her third band, Full-Tilt Boogie. She was also talking of marriage with her latest lover, seemed pleased with her band, and in general was less depressed than she had been over the summer.

It didn't last long. She started using heroin again in Los Angeles, and one night it was finally too much. The "chronic suicide" she'd been practicing for years was at an end. On Oct. 4, 1970, Janis Joplin died of an overdose in the Landmark Hotel in Hollywood at the age of 27.

But her music--some of it released posthumously--survives her, including the trademark "Ball and Chain" and "Piece of My Heart" and the number-one hit "Me and Bobby McGee."

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