Sound of Texas Music: Janis Joplin
By: Ben Carpenter, Contributor
Texas: the home of musical legends and artistic geniuses. It’s a place filled with renowned artists with talents that the rest of the world envies, yet admires at the same time. I can’t think of a more fitting description of a woman who left a historical mark in the world of music other than that of Janis Joplin.
She was born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1943. Being noted by her family as “the different one,” she found some friends that influenced her to be who she was meant to be: a rock/blues singer with vocal chords that demanded attention.
Joplin’s voice began to develop as she sang in the school choir, as well as with her blues and folk music friends. She graduated high school and attended college for a short time before realizing that academia was not what she was made for.
She left for San Francisco and began recording music with some friends. Joplin’s reputation began to pick up in both positive and negative ways; she was known for her unique voice as well as her massive drug abuse. In ‘66 She returned to Texas for a short time before joining the band Big Brother and the Holding Company. In an attempt to lay off the drugs and focus more on the music, Joplin went with the band to California.
The band began to soar in 1967 when they released their debut album and America quickly fell in love with Janis Joplin’s style and voice. The album produced such hits as “Down on Me” and “Coo Coo,” which feature Joplin’s wild voice and harsh American rock tones causing you to keep the volume high.
Down On Me
Janis got her first taste in the production and arrangement of the bands second album, Cheap Thrills. The album gave America the hit “Piece of My Heart”. The song, shooting chills down the industry’s spine, made Janis a living legend. The single made it to number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968. Joplin toured with Big Brother and the Holding Company for a while, and then split off to pursue her own career as a solo artist.
Piece of My Heart
Partnering with other blues artists/bands, she was a part of some chart topping albums. During this time while she was playing with the Kosmic Blues Band, Joplin was heavily using heroin. It was estimated that she had been shooting $200 worth of heroin per day. Though friends and colleagues tried to help stop her drug addiction, she could not get off of it. Although, some would argue that the inebriation of the drugs was the driving influence to her musical genius; still, others tried to stop her.
Joplin played in a few other acts/bands before her overdose on October 4th, 1970. A tragic end to an exciting career, Joplin’s death caused darkness over the industry for the rest of the year.
Janis Joplin’s music is loved, followed, and shared even to this day. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. She was a critically acclaimed artist, and she is tragically missed. Janis Joplin was one hell of a singer, and has and forever will be a Texas rock & roll legend.