Posts Tagged ‘Janis Joplin’


Posted: June 17, 2020 in MUSIC

Janis Joplin Scrapbook, 1966-68

Fifty-three years ago, on 17th and 18th June 1967, Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company played their now legendary set at the Monterey Pop Festival, a breathtaking appearance that set in motion the iconic singer’s extraordinary rise to fame.

Genesis Books are proud to announce, in partnership with the Janis Joplin Estate, the forthcoming official limited edition book, Janis Joplin Scrapbook 1966-68 (working title).

Shared for the first time, Janis Joplin’s handmade scrapbook from the years 1966-1968 reveals the singer’s personal record of her meteoric success and the fascinating period of history of which she was a part.

From Janis’s earliest intimate blues gigs in local coffee houses, to her first appearances with Big Brother and the Holding Company, to the band’s breakthrough performance at Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 – which made her a rock star overnight – Janis’s story is remarkable. Throughout it all, she collected posters, souvenirs, press clippings, photographs and records. In Janis’s scrapbook you can see the Port Arthur girl transform into a rock goddess, setting the world on fire with her talent.

In a strictly limited edition of just 2,000 estate-stamped copies, Janis’s scrapbook will be reproduced in facsimile alongside further pieces from her archive. Her memorabilia will be interspersed with quotes and stories from the people who really knew her during that period and beyond, from friends, family and bandmates, to musicians, writers and photographers.

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Already a tremendous star, 1969 was a year of change for Janis Joplin. Her legendary performance at Woodstock Festival came just weeks before the release of her first solo album, “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!” Both that record and this live set, which is available on vinyl for the first time, pointed to the new, exciting direction her music would take and helped define an incredible moment in music history.

To celebrate 50 years since the Woodstock Festival , Legacy Recordings will release Janis Joplin’s full set from the iconic festival on vinyl for the first time.  Joplin had already had significant success by the time she performed there.  Her first albums had established her as one of the best in the psych-rock scene.  By 1969, she was changing directions with her first-ever solo effort, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! which would arrive a few weeks after her performance.

Together, the album and the Woodstock set saw Joplin performing in full gear, but shifting toward soul and blues music, rather than the psychedelic fare that had brought her stardom.  Tracks like “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” and her cover of The Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” are soul-stirrers on the studio album, and at Woodstock, she imbued them with even more passion and intensity.  Already a tremendous star, 1969 was a year of change for Janis Joplin. Her legendary performance at Woodstock came just weeks before the release of her first solo album, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! Both that record and this live set, available on vinyl for the first time on Record Store Day 2019, pointed to the new, exciting direction her music would take and helped define an incredible moment in music history.

January 1, 1968 - Die amerikanische Sängerin Janis Joplin mit der Band Big Brother and the Holding Company, USA Ende 1960er Jahre. American singer Janis Joplin witth the band Big Brother and the Holding Company, USA end 1960s. Copyright: Roba/Roba-Archiv UnitedArchives03393 (Credit Image: © Imago via ZUMA Press)

Big Brother and the Holding Company were a band before the summer of 1967. They had gigs, fans and even a full-length record ready for release. But all that early history was eclipsed after they took the stage at the Monterey Pop Festival in June for a pair of performances that transformed Janis Joplin& her bandmates. from San Francisco scenesters to cultural giants. Joplin herself would describe the weekend as “one of the highest points of my life.” The lonely and misunderstood young woman from Texas proudly wrapped herself in her newfound fame a substitute for the love she was denied during her lonely and painful adolescence.

Monterey was a gold rush for the recording industry, and major labels flocked to stake out their claim. For Big Brother, their trajectory would become the quintessential overnight success gone awry. Within a year, the searing spotlight trained on Joplin would cause the band to come unglued. But during its brief big-league run, Big Brother assembled their first and only true artistic statement for a global audience. Issued on August 12th, 1968, Cheap Thrills is undeniably a masterpiece of the psychedelic age, a set of top-shelf electric soul. Yet it also reflects the commodification of the fading hippie dream.

Presented as a document culled from wild, spontaneous San Francisco nights, it was actually crafted in a studio run by one of the largest record manufacturers on the planet. To say Cheap Thrills is inauthentic would be false, but there’s a premature melancholy to the production, as though it were a Gatsby-esque exercise in re-creating good times that had already passed. Joplin’s mournful version of Gershwin’s “Summertime” seems only to underscore the shift in mood from the Summer of Love to the Summer of Violence that greeted the album. A week after its release, police would beat up demonstrators at Chicago’s Democratic National Convention. A month later, Joplin and Big Brother parted ways for good.

The album was supposed to be called Sex, Dope and Cheap Thrills, but Big Brother’s label nixed it. Even so, the rest of the record – produced by John Simon – defined the group with its vibrant blues-influenced rock ‘n’ roll. The breakout star was undoubtedly Joplin, one of the most dynamic singers of her generation who set the template for anyone standing behind a microphone. Just ask Robert Plant where he got part of his banshee wail.

Things kick off with the driving “Combination of the Two,” which boils over at times thanks to James Gurly’s blistering guitar. Joplin and guitarist Sam Andrew share vocals, but she ably steals the spotlight. The band’s celebrated cover of the Gershwins’ “Summertime” ranks as one of the finest takes on this often-covered standard. Joplin delivers a near-fragile performance while the swirling guitars provide a solid web surrounding. Gurly and Andrew’s fuzz-drenched solos in the middle of the song are electric-guitar poetry.

Side one ends with the band’s cover of Erma Franklin’s (Aretha’s sister) “Piece of My Heart,” which hit No. 12 and became the group’s signature song. Joplin’s soulful performance made her a star. “Turtle Blues,” on the other hand, is pure blues, with just acoustic guitar, piano and vocal steering it. The haunting rocker “Oh Sweet Mary” follows, slithering along with mighty fine guitar work anchoring one of the most blatantly psychedelic songs in Big Brother’s catalog.

It all leads up to the album’s tour de force, “Ball and Chain,” a highlight of the band’s live sets (including the career-making one at Monterey), Big Brother take on Big Mama Thornton’s song and turn it inside out, making it their own. Once again, vicious guitars weave in and out of Joplin’s fiery performance. The 10-second pause at the start of the song remains one of the most spine-chilling moments of the era.

Cheap Thrills – which wasn’t quite the live album it claimed to be, since studio recordings and overdubs make up a bulk of the tracks – was a huge hit, staying at No. 1 for eight weeks. Engineer Fred Catero remembered the sessions as being frustrating. “Janis always sounded good, take after take, But it was hard to get the band to play in tune and in time. They just weren’t very good musicians.” Even though they may not have been virtuosos, the members of Big Brother & the Holding Company gave Cheap Thrills a certain ragged glory. The album ended up being the band’s last album with Joplin, who left by the end of the year to launch a solo career.

Cheap Thrills is a showcase for the band at its best, stocked almost exclusively with its most beloved songs, including “Combination of the Two,” “Ball and Chain,” and “Piece of My Heart.” On the album’s 50th anniversary, here are 10 facts you might not know about its creation.

Joplin offered to sleep with Clive Davis to seal the deal on their CBS recording contract.
Clive Davis had just begun his tenure as the head of CBS Records when he fell hard and fast for Big Brother and the Holding Company following their performance at Monterey. He wanted to sign them immediately, and the fact that they were already committed to the independent Mainstream Records imprint was of little concern. After some legal wrangling, and the appointment of impresario Albert Grossman as the band’s manager, Davis sent Mainstream packing with a check for $200,000. It was an audacious move for the relatively green label chief — only a year earlier, fellow San Franciscans the Jefferson Airplane made headlines for scoring an RCA advance worth just $25,000.

Cheap Thrills was originally intended to be a live album.

Big Brother and the Holding Company’s self-titled studio debut, issued in August 1967 on Mainstream, was decidedly lackluster. Joplin herself even dubbed it “our shitty record” and it sold accordingly, peaking only at Number 60. For their first major-label appearance, it was felt that a live album would be a better showcase for Big Brother’s abilities. “They had a reputation for inspiring a level of excitement in their audience that was as much a part of their show as their performance,” John Simon, the album’s producer, said in 2015. “In order to capitalize on that excitement they were eager to record a live album.”

They rented a remote recording console and recorded two shows at Detroit’s Grande Theater beginning on March 1st, 1968. Unfortunately, they hit a series of snags. Off the bat, the ear-splitting volume of their live performances pushed the recording meters permanently into the red. What’s more, the audience response was effectively nonexistent. “They’d never heard a woman sound like that,” engineer Fred Catero said in Alice Echols’ Joplin bio Scars of Sweet Paradise. “Every time she’d finish a song, people were just, like, ‘Huh?’ There was no reaction.” Even more troubling for Simon, the band’s “avalanche of energy” couldn’t mask the “mistakes a-plenty” that he heard. The producer decided to move sessions to a formal recording facility, Columbia’s Studio B in New York, where bum notes, wrong chords or fluffed lyrics could be remedied with surgical precision. But retreating to the studio presented another problem, albeit one of the nonmusical variety. “Word had already spread and already a live recording of Big Brother and the Holding Company was enthusiastically expected,” Simon recalled. “I didn’t want their fans to be disappointed.” So instead, they endeavored to make a studio album that sounded live.

Some of the faux-audience background noises were recorded at Barney’s Beanery, where Joplin would have her last meal.

Re-creating the excitement of a swirling San Franciscan psychedelic odyssey in an airless and sterile Midtown Manhattan recording facility would pose a challenge. The fundamental methods of studio tracking ran counter to the way the band preferred to make music. “Everything’s fairly isolated,” bassist Peter Albin observed in Scars of Sweet Paradise. “You have headphones on. The vocalist is in a soundproof vocal chamber. The drummer is baffled like crazy. . . . It’s a very non-together way of recording.” In the hopes of improving the overall vibe, a stage was assembled in the live room, complete with lowered curtains, a spotlight and even the band’s PA system. To enhance the effect on record, Simon created tape loops of fake audience reactions, with studio secretaries, engineers and assorted members of the group’s entourage enlisted as the crowd. “We gave them tambourines and whistles and stuff,” Catero told Echols, “and said, ‘Can you stand out here and whenever you feel like reacting just whoop and holler, shake your tambourines and blow your whistles?’ ”

While the album credits claim that the “live material” was taped at Bill Graham’s legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, the sole concert recording — a nine-minute version of “Ball and Chain” with a new guitar solo tracked in the studio — was made at Graham’s other local stronghold, the Winterland Ballroom. “John [Simon] was good — he came up with a real concept for the album that worked,” drummer Dave Getz says in Echols’ book. “It created a picture for people who hadn’t been to the San Francisco ballrooms.” Even the intimate “Turtle Blues” was treated with ambient noise recorded at Barney’s Beanery, a bar on Hollywood’s Santa Monica Boulevard that was one of Joplin’s favorite watering holes. She dined there on the night of October 3rd, 1970, just before heading back to the Landmark Hotel, where she would inject a fatal dose of heroin after midnight

Erma Franklin didn’t recognize Joplin’s version of her song “Piece of My Heart.”

Three of the seven tracks on Cheap Thrills were covers that had been, in Peter Albin’s words, “Big Brotherized.” They include a revamp of “Summertime” and a minor-key reimagining of Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball and Chain” stretched out ad infinitum. But chief among these is “Piece of My Heart,” a tune that would become the band’s first and only Top 20 hit.

The song had been written by producer and Bang! Records founder Bert Berns and his collaborator Jerry Ragovoy. Berns initially passed it to Van Morrison, then signed to the Bang! roster, but Morrison declined. Instead the track was offered to Erma Franklin, Aretha’s elder sister, who had all but retired from music after issuing a string of unsuccessful singles earlier in the decade. By 1967, she was working as an administrator for IBM when Berns coaxed her back with his new composition. Originally arranged as an off-kilter calypso, “Piece of My Heart” was ultimately given a strident soul treatment that sent it to Number 62 on the Billboard charts. A full-length album was planned for Franklin, but Berns’ fatal heart attack on December 30th, 1967, threw the label into turmoil, and the follow-up never materialized.

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The members of Big Brother and the Holding Company greatly admired “Piece of My Heart,” and came up with a psychedelicized version to fit their unique style. “We didn’t want to imitate Erma Franklin,” Albin later said. “Erma’s ‘Piece of My Heart’ had a delicacy and a sense of mystery that was just beyond us.” Big Brother’s rendition, with Joplin’s soulful wailing at the fore, would overshadow the original commercially, and become what many feel is the definitive version of the song. If having her song snatched bothered Franklin, she tried not to let it show in interviews. “To be honest, I never even recognized the song when I first heard Janis’ version on the car radio,” she told Blues & Soul in 1973. “Naturally, it would have been great to have gotten the exposure, airplay and sales that she got, but her version is so different from mine that I really don’t resent it too much.”

Clive Davis played Big Brother’s version of “Summertime” to Richard Rodgers. It didn’t go down too well.

Richard Rodgers dropped by Columbia’s New York headquarters one day in 1968 to have lunch with company bigwig Goddard Lieberson and discuss funding for his upcoming musicalAs the Broadway icon waited, Davis reverently approached and introduced himself. Over the course of their brief conversation, Davis invited Rodgers into his office to hear an advance tape of Big Brother’s version of “Summertime.” He believed the older man would appreciate a fresh take on the Porgy and Bess chestnut.

Rodgers took a seat and Davis pressed play. “He listened without expression,” Davis writes in his memoir. “When the song ended, he didn’t say anything, which unnerved me.” Fearing that “Summertime” was a little too close to Rodgers’ theatrical wheelhouse for an unbiased response, he changed tactics altogether. “I decided to play ‘Piece of My Heart’ for him. Now, that was a mistake.” Within 90 seconds, the composer of Oklahoma!, The Sound of MusicandThe King and I asked him to turn the tape off. “He told me that not only did he not understand what he was hearing, but he could not understand why anyone would like it,” Davis continued. “As for Janis’ singing, it was impossible for him to imagine why anyone would think she was talented.” By this point Rodgers had worked himself into something approaching a tizzy, apparently telling Davis, “If this means I have to change my writing, or that the only way to write a Broadway musical is to write rock songs, then my career is over.” A flustered and quite embarrassed Davis quickly dropped the issue, accepting that Rodgers “simply couldn’t hear the new sounds.”

The album almost included a brief jam called “Harry,” and a version of the national anthem.

On some early printings of the Cheap Thrills cover, the words “HARRY KRISHNA! (D. GETZ)” are faintly visible underneath “ART: R. CRUMB” in the speech bubble emanating from a man wearing a turban. John Simon’s initial mix of the album was slated to include this brief track before label execs intervened, fearing that it was too ragged. A version of “Happy Birthday” was also reportedly elbowed by Columbia brass, but it was Simon who put the kibosh on another arrangement of an old standard. Guitarist Sam Andrews tried to sell the producer on a run-through of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but the idea was quickly dismissed — much to his dismay. “A year or so later, Jimi Hendrix did an instrumental version,” he told author Ellis Amburn in Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin. “But how much more revolutionary would Janis’ singing of this song have been a year earlier?”

The original album cover featured the group naked in bed together.
“I slept with all of them,” Joplin once said of her Big Brother brethren. “They’re like my family — I’ve balled ’em all.” So, on paper, the initial cover concept depicting the band mates tucked up together must have seemed like the perfect choice. But when they arrived at Columbia creative director Bob Cato’s New York set, they found an embarrassment to hippie crash pads: a Madison Avenue mélange of pinks, frills and swirling Peter Max prints. Joplin took one look and shrieked, “Let’s trash it, boys!” And trash it they did, tearing down the offending accouterments and replacing them with detritus from around the studio to get that true Haight-Ashbury edge. “Then we took off all our clothes, jumped in bed, and smiled for the camera,” Sam Andrews told Amburn. “It was a very merry morning.” In the photos taken that day, a carton of Marlboros, Joplin’s fifth of Southern Comfort, and a candle (apparently) for cooking heroin are all visible among the nude bodies. It was all too much for the label executives, who decided to scrap the idea. A cartoon by Zap Comix cult hero R. Crumb, originally destined for the back of the jacket, was used instead.

The label rejected the band’s preferred title: Sex, Dope and Cheap Thrills.
The original cover wasn’t the only thing that was too hot for the record company. Columbia also balked at the band’s initial choice at a title, Sex, Dope and Cheap ThrillsBorrowed from the infamous anti-drug propaganda film Reefer Madness, the phrase had taken on special significance for Andrews. “We looked on it as an antidote to being overly serious about our music and what the movement was doing,” he said to Amburn. “It was a way of saying, ‘Lighten up!’ — of being tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing.” In an era when both the Mamas and the Papas and the Rolling Stones were barred from showing a toilet seat on their album covers, the use of “sex“ and “dope” in a title was deemed over the line, and the phrase was shortened simply to Cheap Thrills.

The album sold 500,000 copies before it was even finished, resulting in a rush release and a marathon 36-hour mixing session

Two weeks of sessions in New York that March resulted in only three completed songs, so Simon and the band decamped to Columbia’s Los Angeles studio in April to finish the album. Recording continued there for nearly a month, but work was still far from complete. Complicating matters was the fact that Simon’s perfectionist streak was seriously at odds with the band’s laid-back style. “Here’s this dude from Princeton with perfect pitch telling them that they’re playing their guitars out of tune, and telling her that she’s singing out of tune, and making them do a million takes,” fellow producer Elliot Mazer recalled to Echols. It was probably a relief to all concerned when Simon had to depart in June to honor his commitment to produce the Band’s second album. Now it was Mazer’s job to take Cheap Thrills across the finish line, and a sizable part of his duty was fending off antsy Columbia execs who wanted the project wrapped ASAP. Mazer was still in the midst of “trying to figure out how to put the second side together” when he got a phone call from Clive Davis informing him that the album, which didn’t technically exist yet, had already been certified gold for shipping 500,000 advance units. “That’s the last thing I’d ever want to say to a band trying to finish a record!” Mazer told Amburn.

As the pressure mounted, Joplin and Sam Andrews spent a marathon 36-hour session with engineers to mix the final record. “A day and a half with no sleep and very little to eat,” Andrews recalled. But the grueling sessions and long hours were worth it: “We felt like we had something. We thought there was a good chance it would be well received.”

Joplin announced she was leaving Big Brother and the Holding Company just weeks after the album was issued.
The seeds of Joplin’s departure from Big Brother were sown before the band ever set foot in the studio to record Cheap Thrills. Albert Grossman and the rest of the new management team made their intent clear with press kits in which the guys in the group were effectively phantoms. Concert billings suddenly became “Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company,” and Grossman kept turning up the heat behind the band’s back. “The first thing Albert told her was to get rid of Big Brother,” says musician and Joplin associate Nick Gravenites in Pearl. “He came at her with a record deal and said, ‘I can get you a quarter of a million dollars, but it’s strictly for you. The deal doesn’t include Big Brother. Think it over.’ ”

Joplin also faced mounting pressure from outside the band’s circle as 1968 progressed. “Once we left warm and cozy San Francisco, the critics attacked Big Brother because we were very limited musically,” Getz admitted to Echols. “Ultimately, that’s what split up the band.” The Los Angeles Free Press insisted that Joplin was “too full of soul for the Holding Company partners,” and Rolling Stone called the band’s Boston gig “messy and a general musical disgrace.” Joplin herself tried to laugh it off, freely admitting that they were “lousy musicians” in interviews but proclaiming that they were like family. Yet even she knew that in order to progress toward the horn-based soul sounds favored by her heroes like Etta James and Otis Redding, she had to go her own way. In mid-September, weeks after the release of Cheap Thrills, Grossman issued a press release announcing her “amicable” split with Big Brother and the Holding Company. They played their last show together on December 1st, 1968, in San Francisco. “It was a very sad thing, man,” Joplin told Rolling Stone’s David Dalton in 1970. “I love those guys more than anybody else in the whole world, they know that. But if I had any serious idea of myself as a musician, I had to leave.”

Big Brother and the Holding Company
  • Janis Joplin – vocals
  • Sam Andrew – lead guitar, bass, vocals
  • James Gurley – guitar
  • Peter Albin – bass, guitar
  • Dave Getz – drums

Cheap Thrills was released in the summer of 1968, one year after their debut album, and reached number one on the Billboard charts in its eighth week in October. It kept the top spot for eight (nonconsecutive) weeks, while the single “Piece of My Heart” also became a huge hit. By the end of the year, it was the most successful album of 1968, having sold nearly a million copies. The 1999 re-release of Cheap Thrills features the outtakes “Flower in the Sun” and “Roadblock” as well as live performances of “Magic of Love” and “Catch Me Daddy” as bonus material.

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With Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin performed the song at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 to an enthusiastic audience and critical reception. The first performance on June 17th was not filmed, so the band was persuaded to perform the song again on the next day. This shorter version (without James Gurley’s extended guitar solo) was released in the 1968 film Monterey Pop, while the longer June 17th version was released in 1995 on the Joplin compilation “18 Essential Songs”.

Janis Joplin’s second and final solo classic album “Pearl” became the huge album in the US on February. 27th, 1971. The record was released posthumously released on January. 11th 1971.  It was the final album with her direct participation, and the only Joplin album recorded with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, her final touring unit.

“Pearl” stayed in the top spot for 9 weeks. The album has a more polished feel than the albums she recorded with Big Brother and The Holding Company and the Kozmic Blues Band due to the expertise of the producer Paul A Rothchild and her new backing musicians. Rothchild was best known as the recording studio producer of The Doors, and worked well with Joplin, calling her a producer’s dream. Together they were able to craft an album that showcased her extraordinary vocal talents.

No one can go through Janis Joplin’s discography without listening to “Me and Bobby McGee” at least twice. Janis Joplin and her posthumously released hit Me and Bobby McGee. Written by country singer Kris Kristofferson the country-blues single reached the No. 1 spot in the U.S. singles charts as well as Joplin’s album “Pearl” . This song also made it to the history books as being the second single to hit No. 1 in chart history after the artist had passed away. The recording sessions, starting in early September, ended with Joplin’s untimely death on October 4th, 1970. Her final session, which took place on Thursday, October 1st after a break of several days, yielded the acapella “Mercedes Benz.” It was the last song she recorded before her death

Another precious gem from her album “Pearl”, “Cry Baby” is a heart wrenching song especially captivated by the soul Janis’ voice brings. The opening wail to the track is just every emotion poured out into a performance. It also teaches about forgiveness with Janis singing for her man to come back home even though she’s been hurt by him, she’ll forgive him and believe that things will work out in the end. Originally recorded by Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters, Janis again, covered it in 1970 and made it her own by putting her own signature blues-rock spin to the song. The song became a usual song in Joplin’s repertoire and it was released as a single posthumously following her sudden tragic death in 1971.

Capturing the life, career, persona and phenomenon that was Janis Joplin in the space of a less-than-two-hours-long documentary is a daunting task. Amy Berg makes a crucially important decision in Janis: Little Girl Blue, opting to let the performances speak for themselves. There’s not a lot of talking head analysis of Janis’ music; Berg instead gives us a few well-chosen, extended clips of that otherworldly voice in action (as well as a good many selections backgrounded in the mix). Berg also focuses on Janis’ inner life, and boy, does that pay off. With the full cooperation of the estate and interviews with many of Janis’ intimates, including her two siblings, the marvelous Dick Cavett, and the one man with whom, in another universe, she surely found lifelong happiness, Berg is able to dig deep into who Janis actually was behind the raucous stage persona. Most effective of all is Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power), reading from Janis’ diaries and letters with the simple delivery of a born performer. It’s as if Janis is narrating her own life story, and it’s pure magic

Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 — October 4, 1970) was an American singer and songwriter from Port Arthur, Texas. As a youth Joplin was ridiculed by her fellow students due to her unconventional appearance and personal beliefs. She later sang about her experience at school through her song “Ego Rock”. Early in her life, Joplin cultivated a rebellious and unconventional lifestyle, becoming a beatnik poet. She began her singing career as a folk and blues singer in San Francisco, playing clubs and bars with her guitar and auto-harp.

Janis Joplin first rose to prominence in the late 1960s as the lead singer of the psychedelic-acid rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later as a solo artist with her more soulful and bluesy backing groups, The Kozmic Blues Band and The Full Tilt Boogie Band. She was one of the more popular acts at the Monterey Pop Festival and later became one of the major attractions to the Woodstock festival and the Festival Express train tour.

Janis Joplin only charted five singles in her life but her hits and other popular songs from throughout her short four year career include “Down On Me”, “Bye, Bye Baby”, “Coo Coo”, “Summertime”, “Piece of My Heart”, “Turtle Blues”, “Ball ‘n’ Chain”, “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)”, “Maybe”, “To Love Somebody”, “Kozmic Blues”, “Work Me, Lord”, “Move Over”, “Cry Baby”, “A Woman Left Lonely” “Get It While You Can”, “My Baby”, “Trust Me”, “Mercedes Benz”, “One Night Stand”, “Raise Your Hand” and her only number one hit, “Me and Bobby McGee”.

Joplin was well known for her performing abilities and her fans referred to her stage presence as electric. At the height of her career, she was known as “The Queen of Rock and Roll” as well as “The Queen of Psychedelic Soul” and became known as Pearl amongst her friends. She was also a painter, dancer and music arranger.

JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE is the new Janis Joplin documentary that explores the life and music of the psychedelic queen of the blues. Director Amy Berg shares the film with clips and the trailer, discusses Janis on the Dick Cavett show, and also details her collaboration with Cat Power on the film. The sexual and social impact of Joplin, and the progression of the film from early stages to its premiere is all explored, and we also revisit Berg’s work PROPHET’S PREY, with Ondi Timoner on BYOD.

Oscar-nominated documentarian Amy Berg examines the meteoric rise and untimely fall of one of the most revered and iconic rock ‘n’ roll singers of all time: Janis Joplin. Joplin’s life story is revealed for the first time on film through electrifying archival footage, revealing interviews with friends and family and rare personal letters, presenting an intimate and insightful portrait of a bright, complicated artist who changed music forever.
Amy Berg is a critically acclaimed, Emmy-award winning and Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker. She was nominated for an Academy Award and a DGA Award (Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary) for her documentary DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2006). She went on to direct WEST OF MEMPHIS, a documentary about the failure of the justice system in the West Memphis Three case. She worked in collaboration with producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. The film premiered to rave reviews at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and was BAFTA nominated and won the WGA Documentary Screenplay Award. Sony Pictures Classics released the film in Fall 2012.
Amy completed her first narrative feature, EVERY SECRET THING, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014 and was released theatrically in May 2015. Her doc, Prophet’s Prey, which was made in association with Showtime and Imagine Entertainment will open in theatres this fall. She is currently in production on several films at her company, Disarming Films, and will be premiering her project about music legend Janis Joplin at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals this September. Amy’s company, Disarming Films, writes and produces long-form documentaries focusing on social justice.


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Me and Bobby McGee turned into Joplin’s signature song. The song was on her last album Pearl. this was a slightly different vocal for Janis. There is more control in her voice in this one. The producer Paul A. Rothchild was working with Janis to use her voice more efficiently so she could continue to sing later on in her career. Unfortunately, she never got a chance.

This was Janis Joplin’s only top ten hit although her songs are still played today.

This was released after Joplin died of a heroin overdose. Her death gave the album a lot of attention, and Pearl went to #1 in the Billboard Album Chart in 1971. It was the second song to hit #1 in the US after the artist had died…”Dock Of The Bay” by Otis Redding was the first.

The song was written by Kris Kristofferson: “I had just gone to work for Combine Music. Fred Foster, the owner, called me and said, ‘I’ve got a title for you: ‘Me and Bobbie McKee,’ and I thought he said ‘McGee.’ I thought there was no way I could ever write that, and it took me months hiding from him because I can’t write on assignment. But it must have stuck in the back of my head. One day I was driving between Morgan City and New Orleans. It was raining and the windshield wipers were going. I took an old experience with another girl in another country. I had it finished by the time I got to Nashville.” 

If this song was good enough for Janis it’s good enough for us! ‘Me And Bobby McGee’ is an American classic, originally performed by Roger Miller and later covered by Janis Joplin in 1970, a few days before her death. October 4, 1970 (aged 27) in Hollywood, California, Unfortunately, the song she’s best known for is one that we never got to see her perform live. Lucky for us though, Janis Joplin’s rendition of ‘Me And Bobby McGee’ was included on her 1971 posthumous release, “Pearl”.

This was written by Kris Kristofferson, who has written hundreds of songs for a wide variety of artists. Kristofferson would become a successful solo artist and appear in several movies, but it was Janis Joplin’s hit cover of this song that brought his career to the next level. “‘Bobby McGee’ was the song that made the difference for me,” he told Performing Songwriter in 2015. “Every time I sing it, I still think of Janis.”

The founder of Kristofferson’s record label, Fred Foster, rang him just as the struggling musician was about to leave Nashville for his helicopter pilot sideline job. He said that he had a song title for the songwriter – “Me And Bobby McKee.” Kristofferson recalled in Mojo magazine March 2008 that his label boss suggested: “‘You could make this thing about them traveling around, the hook is that he turns out to be a she.'”

Kristofferson was not sure at first. “I hid from Fred for a while but I was trying to write that song all the time I was flying around Baton Rouge and New Orleans. I had the rhythm of a Mickey Newbury song going in the back of my mind, ‘Why You Been Gone So Long,’ and I developed this story of these guys who went around the country kind of like Anthony Quinn and Giuletta Masina in (Fellini’s) La Strada. At one point, like he did, he drove off and left her there. That was ‘Somewhere near Salinas, I let her slip away.’ Later in the film he (Quinn) hears a woman hanging out her clothes, singing the melody she (Masina) used to play on the trombone, and she told him, ‘Oh, she died.’ So he goes out, gets drunk, gets into a fight in a bar and ends up on the beach, howling at the stars. And that was where ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’ came from, because he was free from her, and I guess he would have traded all his tomorrows for another day with her.”

The song’s final defining image came to Kristofferson as he was driving in heavy rain to the airport for the flight home. “I went, ‘With them windshield wipers slapping time and Bobby clapping hands we finally sang up every song the driver knew.’ And that was it.”

Fred Foster used a secretary’s name as inspiration for the title. Her name was actually Bobbi McKee. By naming the character in the song “Bobby,” it made sure a female singer could sing it without changing the name, since “Bobby” could refer to a man or woman. 

This was first recorded in 1969 by a country singer named Roger Miller, who is known for his hit “King Of The Road.”

Kris Kristofferson released this in 1970 on his first album, Kristofferson. A year later, when it became a hit for Joplin, Kristofferson’s album was re-released as Me And Bobby McGee to take advantage of the song’s new popularity.

The lyrics tell the story of two young lovers who travel together, but break up so they can discover the world on their own. The characters in the song were a lot like Joplin, who was known as a free spirit.

In the March 2006 issue of Esquire magazine, Kristofferson was asked where he was when he came up with the line, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” His reply: “I was working the Gulf of Mexico on oil rigs, flying helicopters. I’d lost my family to my years of failing as a songwriter. All I had were bills, child support, and grief. And I was about to get fired for not letting 24 hours go between the throttle and the bottle. It looked like I’d trashed my act. But there was something liberating about it. By not having to live up to people’s expectations, I was somehow free.”

The line, “I pulled my Harpoon from my dirty red bandana” can be interpreted two ways. The more sanitized version considers the “Harpoon” as a slang word for harmonica. The second interpretation considers it a hypodermic needle, since a bandana was often used to tie off the arm before an addict shot up. 

The version on Joplin’s 1995 Greatest Hits album 18 Essential Songs contains an alternate version recorded as a demo.

Jerry Lee Lewis covered this in more of a country style several months after Joplin’s version was released. His version hit #40 in the US.

This was Joplin’s only Top 10 hit. She was a very influential and well-known singer, but her bluesy sound kept most of her songs off the pop charts.

The same year Joplin’s version was issued, Kris Kristofferson released The Silver Tongued Devil and I, which was a successful album and finally solidified his place as a singer/songwriter.

Kristofferson performed an acoustic version of this song when Joplin was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013. Kristofferson, who had a brief affair with Joplin, recalled hearing her rendition on the day of her death. He explained to Rolling Stone magazine: “Her producer gave me the record and it was pretty hard to listen to. I was listening to it at my publisher’s office where we used to hang out, there was nobody there and I was playing it over and over again just so I could hear it without breaking up.” >>

The B-side of the single was a song called “Half Moon,” which also appeared on the Pearl album. That song was written by John Hall and his wife Johanna. It was the first song they wrote together, and a huge break for the couple, who were able to buy a buy a house and a sailboat with the royalties. John Hall got a lot of credibility in the rock realm from co-writing it, and his career took off. A few years later, he formed the group Orleans, which had hits with two songs he wrote: “Still The One” and “Dance With Me.”

Did you know…That this was Janis Joplin’s only top 10 hit? The greatest white female rock singer of the 1960s, Janis Joplin was also a great blues singer, making her material her own with her wailing, raspy, supercharged emotional delivery.

Janis Joplin’s signature bluesy style always kept her off of the pop charts. After her death in October 1970, ‘Me And Bobby McGee’ immediately shot to the #1 spot on U.S. music charts!.

Janis Joplin charted five singles, and other popular songs from her four-year career include “Down On Me”, “Bye, Bye Baby”, “Coo Coo”, “Summertime”, “Piece of My Heart”, “Turtle Blues”, “Ball ‘n’ Chain”, “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)”, “Maybe”, “To Love Somebody”, “Kozmic Blues”, “Work Me, Lord”, “Move Over”, “Cry Baby”, “A Woman Left Lonely”, “Get It While You Can”, “My Baby”, “Trust Me”, “Mercedes Benz”, “One Night Stand”, “Raise Your Hand” and her only number one hit, “Me and Bobby McGee”.

Joplin was well-known for her performing abilities, and her fans referred to her stage presence as “electric”. At the height of her career, she was known as “The Queen of Rock and Roll” as well as “The Queen of Psychedelic Soul”, and became known as Pearl amongst her friends. She was also a painter, dancer and music arranger.

Ever the trendsetter even in death, this feat made hers the second ever song to reach the #1 spot after the artist died. While it’s sad that her talent wasn’t fully realized while she was still here to enjoy it, I think that her death is what made people really sit up and pay attention to this lonely girl from Port Arthur, Texas with a big voice and an even bigger heart!

After splitting from Big Brother and the Holding Company, Joplin formed a new band , the Kozmic Blues Band, composed of session musicians like keyboardist Stephen Ryder as well as Big Brother and the Holding Company guitarist Sam Andrew and thefuture Full Tilt Boogie Band bassist Brad Campbell. The band was influenced by the Rhythm and Blues Style of The Stax Volt (R&B) bands of the 1960s, as exemplified by Otis Reading and the Barkays. The Stax-Volt R&B sound was typified by the use of horns and had a more bluesy, funky, soul, pop-oriented sound than most of the hard-rock psychedelic bands of the period. By early 1969, Joplin was allegedly shooting at least $200 worth of heroin per day, although efforts were made to keep her clean during the recording of I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!. Gabriel Mekler, who produced the Kozmic Blues, told publicist-turned-biographer Myra Friedman after Joplin’s death that the singer had lived in his house during the June 1969 recording sessions at his insistence so he could keep her away from drugs and her drug-using friends.

Janis Joplin’s appearances with the Kozmic Blues Band in Europe were released in cinemas in the documentary Janis,  Joplin performed with Tom Jones on his own television show in late 1969.

I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!

The Kozmic Blues album, released  on 11th September 1969, was certified gold later that year, but did not match the success of Cheap Thrills. Reviews of the new group were mixed. However, the recording quality and engineering of the record as well as the musicianship were considered superior to her previous releases, and some music critics argued that the band was working in a much more constructive way to support Joplin’s sensational vocal talents.

Columbia Records released Kozmic Blues as a single, and a live rendition of “Raise Your Hand” was released in Germany and became a top ten hit there. Containing other hits like “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)”,To Love Somebody“, andLittle Girl Blue“, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! 


The one and only Miss. Janis Joplin performing live back in 1967 with Big Brother And The Holding Company.Watch for the reaction of Mama Cass Elliot [of The Mamas & the Papas] to this performance as Janis’ does her rendition of “Ball and chain”.

1-Intro [00:00]
2-Down On Me [00:39]
3-Combination Of The Two [03:37] (video)
4-Harry [09:20]
5-Road Block [10:07]
6-Ball And Chain [16:14] (video)

Image result for big brother and the holding company photo by linda mccartney

An often shunned singer from South Texas, Janis Joplin became one of the most explosive voices of her generation. Although she was a troubled and tattered individual, her voice became symbolic of the assertive stance that emerged defiantly from San Francisco and then spread its way worldwide. Joplin stunned the crowd at Monterrey Festival and became a global superstar, but her utter loneliness and lingering substance abuse contributed to her early demise. Nevertheless, this song established her as a singer who epitomized the needs and desires of those looking for love in a new freewheeling frontier.

It was the blues big mama style, tough, raw, and gutsy, and with an aching…The group behind her drove her and fed from her, building the total volume sound that has become an SF trademark.”

Photo: Janis with Big Brother and the Holding Company in San Francisco, 1967, Photo by Linda McCartney.

Big Brother and the Holding Company – Ball And Chain
Recorded Live: 8/16/1968 – San Francisco – San Francisco, CA

Big Brother and the Holding Company – In the Hall of the Mountain King
Recorded Live: 8/16/1968 – San Francisco – San Francisco, CA