27 Club – Episode 4/6: Janis Joplin


Episode 4 – Janis Joplin : The Pearl of Rock’n’roll!

The lightning career of Janis Joplin began in 1967 to go out in 1970 in an unexpected way. She will have actually lasted only three years. Only three years ! But three fucking years which left its mark on music history for ever. Together with her 3 successive bands ; The Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Kozmic Blues Band and The Full Tilt Boogie Band, she will have only known success and marvellously symbolizes the Flower Power movement ; proudly deducing the slogan : « Make love, not war ».

I can write lines and lines on that voice to make the masters of Blues music go pale but the Dictionary of Rock summarizes it pretty well : « (Janis Joplin) remains an interpreter of exception, in the blues tradition, but not a creator. Her legend is mainly due to the authenticity of her character, next to whom all pop music singers then look pale and conventional. Probably hasn’t she pulled any musical revolution. But being a woman, alone and desperate, and to sing and embrace it without modesty nor taboo, with all the violence and obscenity a white woman was capable of, was in itself a revolution whose effects keep on being felt over the years ». A hell of a woman as a matter of fact !
janis joplin drinking scotch on a sofa
After this short praise, let me tell you the tragedy of her life. Since a few days, in spite of the satisfaction provided by recording at the Sunset Sound Studio, for the album Pearl ; the self-destructive drives of Janis got over her. She’s feeling lonely, sad, and quickly turns on her sweet escape : drugs and alcohol. No warning succeed in holding her on the edge of the abyss. On Saturday, October 3rd, 1970, the Full Tilt Boogie Band finished recording the instrumental part of Buried Alive in the Blues. Only Janis’ voice is missing but it is expected on Monday.
She is at the top of her art and yet she is more vulnerable than ever… Seth Morgan, a student-dealer she met a few months earlier, with whom she mentionned some vague plans of marriage, went back to San Francisco, leaving her alone in LA. She only sustains professional relationships with her band of the moment : The Full Tilt Boogie Band. She doesn’t benefit from an adequate ‘social framework’ to bloom. Distress catches up with her…

On October 4th, 1970, Janis Joplin is found dead of an overdose in a hotel room in Hollywood. A red bag containing heroin will be there discovered as well as a junkie kit. The analysis will demonstrate that it was practically pure heroin and in a proportion ten times superior to the norm of the market. The doctor is definite, it is not the quantity but the purity of the heroin that led her to death. Difficult for any organism to endure such a dose especially when it is combined with a large consumption of alcohol. Here is the tragic scenario of the Queen of Flower Power.

So her death has nothing to do with any conspiracy, murder or plot but intriguing fact ; Janis Joplin had felt the end was near. At only 27, she had already made all the arrangements for her funeral. She had decided to be cremated and to squatter her ashes on the Pacific Ocean off San Francisco, motherland of the Flower Power movement. Her last wish was respected. She had also wished that her friends would gather for a tremendous party two weeks after she passed. She had especially planned a $2,500 check for this purpose. On printed invitation cards, you could read : « Drinks on Pearl ! ».

And since we speak about friendship and intriguing facts… For the record, when she heard about her friends’death, Jimi Hendrix, by overdose, shortly before she did, she would have genuinely said « I wonder if there will be as much buzzing around for me ». It didn’t take long for the mower to hear her and so she joined her friend Hendrix in the pantheon of The 27 Club.

R.I.P. Pearl.

Intro : The 27 Club
1st episode : Jim Morrison
2nd episode : Kurt Cobain
3rd episode : Amy Winehouse
4th episode : Robert Johnson
6th episode : Jimi Hendrix