Janis Joplin

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About Janis Joplin

A defining voice of ’60s rock who drew inspiration from blues belters and her own heartache, Janis Joplin lit up popular music during her too-brief career. Born in Port Arthur, TX, in 1943, Joplin listened to blues and folk music in her youth and began recording her own songs while studying at the University of Texas. After bouncing between Texas and the Bay Area for a few years, she settled in San Francisco in 1966 when she was recruited to lead the psychedelic outfit Big Brother & The Holding Company. Her spellbinding stage presence and powerful, emotion-racked wail made them a West Coast sensation, particularly at larger-scale events like the Monterey Pop Festival. Shortly after that 1967 concert, the band’s self-titled debut was released, and their take on the spiritual “Down On Me” became their first charting hit. Joplin and Big Brother played tirelessly over the following year, and their 1968 album Cheap Thrills, led by the searing “Piece of My Heart,” hit No. 1. Joplin embarked on a solo career that December, and in 1969 she performed at Woodstock, released her Kozmic Blues Band-assisted solo debut, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, and toured. In 1970, after a retreat to Brazil, she assembled the Full Tilt Boogie Band. Their touring and recording were cut short when Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970; a few months later, Columbia Records released Pearl, which included songs that would go on to define her legacy, like “Cry Baby” and the posthumous No. 1 hit “Me and Bobby McGee.” Joplin's moment in the spotlight both reflected and shaped the chaotic counterculture of late-’60s America, and her larger-than-life voice has influenced singers as varied as Melissa Etheridge, P!NK, and Axl Rose.

Port Arthur, TX, United States
January 19, 1943
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