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There Was Only One Janis Joplin

The Reuters obituary was pretty much right on the mark, quite an achievement considering that it was printed just a few hours after Janis Joplin died on December 4, 1970.

Joplin would have been 71 years old had she lived. Here death was a shame on both the artistic and human levels. Reading the accounts of her life again after all these years, combined with the very high quality video on YouTube, brings it all back.

Joplin was born and raised in Port Arthur, Texas. She was an outcast in high school and left for San Francisco, where she began using drugs and drinking heavily. She returned to Port Arthur for a while and tried to lead a more conventional life. Joplin almost got married — Wikipedia says it was the man who backed out — and went to school to study computers.

Joplin eventually returned to San Francisco and joined Big Brother & the Holding Company, which was a great band. She broke through at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.  One of the landmark albums in rock and roll history, “Cheap Thrills,” was released the following year. Big Brother broke up, also in 1968. Joplin performed solo and fronted The Kozmic Blues Band and the Full Tilt Boogie Band.

The story doesn’t have a happy ending, of course. Above is a great clip of Joplin and Tom Jones — who never ceases to surprise — singing “Raise Your Hand.” Below Joplin performs “Move Over” on The Dick Cavett Show in June, 1970. One of the commenters at YouTube says that she is with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, which fits the timeline.

Wikipedia and Reuters (posted at The New York Times) were used to write this post.

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