Bob Doughty with People in America in VOA Special English. Today, we tell about
Janis Joplin. She was one of the greatest white blues-influenced rock singers
of her time. Her intense and emotional voice has become one of the most famous
in American popular music.
"Ball and Chain")
song is called "Ball and Chain." It was
performed by Janis Joplin and her first band, Big Brother and the Holding
Company. Some experts say that this performance is among the greatest in rock
history. It was recorded live on June eighteenth nineteen sixty-seven at the
Monterey International Pop Festival. This was an important event in San
Francisco, California. Many famous rock
musicians of the nineteen sixties gathered there for three days of
performances. Before this concert, Janis Joplin and her band were only known on
the West Coast of the United States. Once she performed at this festival,
however, Janis Joplin became a star.
Joplin did not start out in the world of rock music. She was born in Port
Arthur, Texas, in nineteen forty-three.
Even as a child, Janis showed an interest in music and the arts. She
sang in the local church music group and soon became very interested in blues
music. For example, she was influenced by the blues music of Bessie Smith and
the soul sound of Otis Redding.
was seventeen years old, Janis started performing in small towns around Texas.
She would copy the blues sounds of the musicians she liked best. After some
time singing in New York City and San Francisco, Janis returned to Texas to
attend university. She also needed to recover from her use of illegal drugs and
dependence on alcohol. This struggle with drugs and alcohol would continue
throughout Joplin's life.
nineteen sixty-six, Joplin learned that a group of rock musicians she knew in
San Francisco was looking for a female singer. This band was called Big Brother
and the Holding Company. Joplin once said:
"All of a sudden, someone threw me in front of this rock and roll band.
And I decided then and there that this was it. I never wanted to do anything
Janis Joplin recorded two albums with Big
Brother. Here is a famous song she made with the band during their two years
together. It is called "Piece of My Heart".
This song is an excellent example of Joplin's explosive and emotional
Joplin did not stay with this band for long.
In nineteen sixty-eight, she and the band's guitarist, Sam Andrew,
formed a new group. Joplin wanted to
play music that had more of a rhythm and blues sound.
nineteen sixties were a complex period in America. Many political and cultural
movements were going on at the same time. These included the fight for equal
treatment for black people, the women's rights movement and the movement
protesting America's involvement in the war in Vietnam. In some ways, the rock
bands of this period expressed the conflicts many young people were feeling.
Joplin represented the culture of some young people during this period. She
dressed in very unusual clothing. She let her long wavy hair fly about as she
sang. She drank alcohol and used illegal drugs. Once she became famous, she
even drove around San Francisco in a special sports car. This was not your
average car. It was painted many colors
with images of Joplin and her band. To many people, Janis Joplin's voice and
actions represented freedom and social rebellion.
Janis Joplin and her new band performed around the United
States. They received both good and bad comments from critics in America.
However, when they performed in Europe, they were a big success. In nineteen
sixty-nine, they released an album called "I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again,
Mama!" Here is a song from that album.
It is called "Kozmic Blues," a title that became the name of the band.
Joplin soon formed yet another band called Full Tilt Boogie. Many people say this was the best band she
ever played with. The Full Tilt Boogie Band first played together in May of
nineteen seventy. A few months later, they started to record the album
"Pearl." It would become Janis Joplin's
most successful album.
on that album is called "Mercedes Benz".
Here, Janis Joplin sings a cappella, without any musical instruments.
The words of the song are funny. But they also comment about the desire for
Joplin did not live to see this album completed and released. In October, nineteen seventy, Joplin died of
an accidental heroin drug overdose in Los Angeles, California. She was
twenty-seven years old.
Janis Joplin once said this about her
singing: "When I am there, I am not here.
I can't talk about my singing. I'm inside it. How can you describe
something you are inside of?"
statement expresses how serious Janis Joplin was about her music. She was an
intense singer who lived during an intense time in American history. While she
did not have a long career, Joplin became one of the most important voices of
with Janis Joplin's most popular song.
It was written for her by a friend, the famous singer and songwriter
Kris Kristofferson. Here is "Me and Bobby McGee".
program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Bob Doughty.
And I'm Pat Bodnar. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special