Wednesday Wonderful Women: Janis Joplin

I think this is one of my favorite images of Janis Joplin.  She looks so innocent and young.  Over the years, I have had many thoughts about this woman – her confusing life, her rise to fame, her humble beginnings, her tragic death…

I discovered Janis Joplin in high school when my frustrated band teacher made our class write a report for bad behavior.  I picked up a Rolling Stones encyclopedia of rock book and sort of stumbled on her.  When it comes to music, I’m pretty naive, I’ll admit.  I didn’t really know anything about classic rock, and now I know even less.  Still, Janis stood out to me as a stunning women who had made it in a predominantly male industry at that time.  I asked my parents if they could tell me something about her.  They said I wouldn’t like her style because she was loud.  I had the impression that she had a nasty voice.  Some could argue this.  I still wanted to know what she was all about.  I read “The Scars of Paradise” to learn more.  Soon, she became a favorite.  A friend gave me one of her box sets and I got her 18 Essential Songs album for Christmas.  I listened to it over and over!  I knew she had a troubled life.  I knew that she experienced some of the same coming-of-age things I was, namely, unrequited love.  I was impressed that she rose to popularity amongst great artists like Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison.  I loved that you could feel her emotions when she sang, like you were feeling it yourself.  To me, she was beautiful because she was real and totally authentic.  I taught myself to sing like her.  I would belt out “Piece of my heart” and ” Me and Bobby McGee” in the car where ever I drove.  It’s actually a great way to warm up my voice!  My favorite Christmas gift ever was the time my brother found a Janis action figure!  That was a great surprise! 

Janis Joplin was a woman who was naive in her own way.  You listen to her talk and you can’t help but feel sorry for her and want to sympathize with her.  Whether that sympathy is because of her story or the obvious influence drugs and alcohol had over her, there is a thin line to distinguish which was the culprit.  Perhaps she was better later in life, but she was cut off too early to find out.  She pushed the limits of her addiction and it ended her too young.

Still, it was a life that she had chosen.  I’m not sure that she started out troubled.  She would sing in church, and her family seemed like a typical conservative family of the 60’s.  She had even gone to college at the University of Texas.  Even her raspy sound was intentional.  The beatnik movement had a powerful hold on her.

Janis died at 27 years old.  I can only imagine how great she would have been if she’d only made better choices.  In my mind, her experience reenforces that there is a time and a place and a season for everything and that there is a counterfeit for everything.  There are snares to catch us when we give in to the counterfeits of happiness and success.  Such a beautiful woman who gave everything she had to anyone and everyone.  To me, she represents a woman who gave it all and only wanted to be loved in return.  She was strong.  She was bold.  She loved the stage.  She was great.

“Piece of My Hearth”

“Cry Baby”

Check out Janis Official website & bio:


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