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See the extensive bibliography (divided into print, video/audio, and online resources) below the essay.

Janis Joplin

[1] Janis Lyn Joplin was born January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas. As an adult Janis took every opportunity to bash her hometown. Janis was the oldest of three children, in a working class family. As a young girl Janis was very popular and made friends easily. She was also well known in her school community for her artistic ability. She designed posters for student campaigns as well as posters for the town library. Janis was also involved in many clubs and organizations, such as the Glee Club, Reading Circle, Art Club, Future Teachers of America, and Future Nurses of America. Janis Lyn Joplin was not so different from her peers.

[2] During her high school years Janis became conflicted by her desire to belong and her rejection of Port Arthurs societal values. Port Arthur was an oil refinery town that believed in racial segregation. It was a town where color lines were literally drawn by the railroad tracks. In addition to her disapproval of the society in which she lived, Janis also had lost her girlish cuteness. She developed acne and gained weight. Janis also had a love for books and knowledge that was not an acceptable role for women in her town. Her love for knowledge turned into an estrangement from her family. The combination of these factors in Joplin's life created a fire in Janis to partake in all that was not acceptable for women; she cursed, began drinking, and was sexually outrageous. She gained an interest for beat writers and jazz music; she believed that everyone should live in the moment.

[3] After high school, Janis went to college briefly at Lamar State College of Technology and the University of Texas. In college Janis spent most of her time in jam sessions and focusing on her true passion, music. In January of 1963, Janis left her home town of Port Arthur and moved to San Francisco. In 1966, Janis joined a band called Big Brother and the Holding Company, as their singer. Janis returned home to her 10-year high school reunion in order to show all the people that she despised what a big star she had become as well as her wealth.

[4] Janis was an influential woman in rock music. She emerged onto the music scene just as the women's liberation movement began to take hold. Janis became associated with the movement. Janis, however, never sang about womens liberation; she most often stuck to singing male-female love songs. Unlike singers Joan Baez and Judy Collins, Joplin's music had a razor-type sound that could grab the attention and applause from any crowd. Janis attributed her sound to the influence of African American musicians. Joplin also did not ignore the influences of country music in her sound.

[5] In 1968 Janis left Big Brother and the Holding Company. She went on to form a new back up group named the Kozmic Blues Band. It is rumored that during her work with the Kozmic Blues Band Joplin's alcohol and drug usage increased, becoming a more serious problem. Her addiction began to affect her career, as more and more often she began performing while under the influence leaving friends and fans concerned for her well being. One such occasion included her now infamous performance at the 1969 Woodstock festival. After touring for the remainder of the year Janis left the Kozmic Blues Band, at which point she stopped her abuse of drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately her sobriety was short lived, and Joplin once again began using heroin. Even in the face of addiction things began to look up for Joplin. She formed the Full Tilt Boogie Band, and after for the first half of 1970 they began recording the album Pearl, Joplin's nickname. Her personal life was also on an upswing, it was at this time she met, and became engaged to, future novelist Seth Morgan. Unfortunately, Joplin's heroin addiction continued to spiral out of control, and on October 4, 1970, Janis was found dead of an apparent overdose in her Los Angeles hotel room.

Print Resources

Amburn, Ellis. Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin. New York: Warner Books, 1992
This biography tells of Janis Joplin who wailed the blues like no one else had ever dared. She is considered the first rock star of the counter culture. In this particular biography Ellis Auburn interviews a variety of people who knew Janis Joplin. He discusses her life and her death in attempt to realize the facts of the life and times of Janis Joplin.
Campbell, Gavin James. "'Buried Alive in the Blues': Janis Joplin and the Souls of White Folk." How Far Is America from Here?" Ed. Theo D'Haen et. al. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005. 499-507.
"Janis Joplin, along with the Beats and the hippies with whom she identified, launched a sustained attack against a particular kind of suburban whiteness that, to them, lead to spiritual and emotional impoverishment. . . . Janis would seem a classic case of reaping the financial benefits and the industry's plaudits for a repertoire hopelessly mired in fantasies of racial primitivism. . . . Altering the perspective allows us to see that Joplin;s embrace of what she saw as black culture was not merely an escapist fantasy from tasteless 'whiteness.' It was the most effective means in her cultural repertoire to attack the particular kind of whiteness to whicj she was heir: the 'southern lady.'"
Campbell, James. "'The Outer Limits of Probability: A Janis Joplin Retrospective." Southern Cultures 6:3 (2000): 100-11.
This chapter discusses the influence of Port Arthur on the life of Janis Joplin. Campbell addresses Joplin's rebellion as a desire to rebel against the southern culture in which she was raised. Cambell discusses in detail the effects of growing up in a racially segregated town on Joplin's life. He also discusses how she rebelled against the role in which she was expected to fit in and how she struggled with the acceptable and the outlandish.
Echols, Alice. Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin. Ontario: Fitzhenry Whiteside LTD, 1999.
Echols addresses not only the life of Janis Joplin but her sphere of influence. With her death, a generation lost an icon of their time. Echols explores Janis's musicianship as well as her beliefs in high-risk living. This work is also considered to be a vivid depiction of a cultural history that still affects society today.
Emblige, David. "I Feel Therefore I Am: The Blues-Rock of Janis Joplin." Southwest Review 61 (1978): 341-53.
Emblige sets out to trace Janis Joplin's fusion of Blues and Rock 'n' Roll. In doing so he examines songs such as "Turtle Blues," "Me and Bobby McGee." and "Ball and Chain." Through this scrutiny, Emblige depicts Joplin as a deeply sensual and spiritual artist with a zest for discovering the pleasures in life. He looks deeply at Joplin's use of the Blues and questions why a genre of music with its roots in black culture would appeal so greatly to white middle class young America. In searching for his answer, Emblige looks to psychohistorians and sociologists to determine what effect the emergence of the 1960's counterculture had on society.
Rodnitzky, Jerry. "Janis Joplin: The Hippie Blues Singer as Feminist Hero." Journal of Texas Music History 2.1 (2002): 7-15.
Rodnitzky focuses on the parallels between Joplin's rise to fame and a new era of feminist ideology. He asserts that while Joplin never spoke out in support of feminism, she will always be remembered as an icon of the idea. Rodnitzky discusses Joplin's life from childhood to death, making references to the actions that reflect a predilection toward female empowerment. It is his contention that up until that time female singers were depicted as "cute" and "sweet," but as a new counterculture emerged, people's perception of the ideal woman began to change. It is Rodnitzy's claim that Joplin was at the forefront of this emergence. She promoted a naturalist style that stretched far beyond the female stereotype: "Joplin was a new kind of aggressive female singer who became a unique rock superstar and inadvertently a feminist heroine by crossing gender lines and raising gender issues."

See Also

Braziel, Jana Evans. "'Bye, Bye Baby': Race, Bisexuality, and the Blues in the Music of Bessie Smith and Janis Joplin." Popular Music and Society 27.1 (2004).

Cavan, Sherri. Hippies of the Haight. St. Louis: New Critics Press, 1972.

Dalton, David. . New York: DaCapo, 1985.

Friedman, Myra. Buried Alive: The Biography of Janis Joplin. New York: Harmony Books, 1992.

"Janis, the Judy Garland of Rock?" Rolling Stone 15 March 1969: 6.

Joplin, Laura. Love, Janis. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992.

Kaiser, Charles. 1968 in America. New York: Weinfield & Nicholson, 1988.

Madow, Stuart, and Jeff Sobul. The Colour of Your Dreams. Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publications, 1992.

Morgan, Edward P. The Sixties Experience: Hard Lessons about Modern America. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1991.

Perry, Charles. The Haight-Ashbury: A History. New York: Random House, 1984.

Perry, Helen Swick. The human be-in. New York: Basic Books, 1970.

Video/Audio Resources

Janis Joplin - Cry Baby (live in toronto 1970)
Janis Joplin - Piece of my heart
Janis Joplin - Summertime (Live Gröna Lund 1969)
Janis. Dir. Howard Alk and Seaton Findlay. With Janis Joplin. Crawley Films, 1974.
"The spectacle of Janis Joplin's anguished, incendiary live performances by now amounts to a visual cliche. But this documentary, which consists of concert and interview footage, is a surprisingly moving portrait of the late singer."

Moneterey Pop. Pennebaker, D.A. dir. and prod. . The Foundation, 1969.

Woodstock '69 :: Work Me, Lord by Janis Joplin

Online Resources

Big Brother & the Holding Company

The Cult of Janis

Excellent Janis Joplin interview!
Interview on the Dick Cavett show.
Gilmore, John. "John Gilmore -- Celebrity Spotlight -- Janis Joplin." The Official John Gilmore Site. 2005.
"She was good. She sang low, slurring almost as though choking back Janis Joplin cries, underplaying words in a trembling way that carried the threat of something bottled up and moving inside her like a riptide."

Janis Joplin [Archived]

Janis Joplin - A Woman Left Lonely
Janis Joplin Interview
Collection of interviews.

Janis Joplin: Life and Times [Archived]
" was founded in 1998 out of boredom, curiosity about the web, and an insatiable need to know all there is to know about Janis Joplin. . . . Although a constant work in progress, we are proud of the massive amount of information that we've gathered here. Hopefully, we can preserve the memory of a figure that is slowly being forgotten. This website is for fans by fans and a non-profit passion project. Enjoy."

Official Janis Joplin Web Site

Pearl-Janis Joplin

Ricmusic: Women of Rock Collection [Archived]

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Tribute

Rolling Stone Magazine

Sydell, Laura. "Janis Joplin: The Queen Of Rock : NPR." NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. 7 June 2010. Web.
50 Great Voices series.

The Unofficial Janis Joplin [Archived]