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Music Legend: Janis Joplin

Readmikenow is a freelance writer who enjoys researching music, movies, history, and more.

Janis Joplin performing live

Janis Joplin performing live

The year was 1967 and the place was the Monterey Pop Festival. Janis Joplin was a lead singer for a little-known rock band called Big Brother and the Holding Company. It was this moment that launched the amazing singing career of Janis Joplin.

She released two albums as a singer for the group, and then she left to pursue a solo career. She sang at the Festival Express train tour as well as the Woodstock festival. In 1971, she sang the Kris Kristofferson song, "Me and Bobby McGee," and in March 1971, it reached number 1 on the Billboard charts.

Early Life

On January 19, 1943, Janis Lynn Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas. Her mother was named Dorothy Bonita East and her father was named Seth Ward Joplin. Joplin's father was an engineer and her mother worked at a business college. Her family were members of the Churches of Christ. Joplin's parents told friends and family that she required the most attention out of all their three children. Joplin became friends with people who had a large collection of blues and folk albums. She later claimed that listening to this music had a powerful influence on her.

Janis Joplin' high school portrait

Janis Joplin' high school portrait

High School

Joplin graduated from high school in 1960. She often talked about how she was bullied and ostracized in high school because she had acne and was overweight. She spent a lot of her time painting and reading, and she was considered to be a loner.


After graduating from high school, Joplin attended Lamar State College of Technology located in Beaumont, Texas. The campus newspaper wrote a profile of her in July 1962. The article talked about how Joplin would go barefoot, wear Levis to class because of the comfort, and always have an autoharp with her, in case she had the urge to make some music. The article focused on how she was daring enough to be different. Joplin later attended the University of Texas in Austin. She did not graduate from either college.

Early Drug Problems

Joplin left Texas in 1963. She joined a friend named Chet Helms and hitchhiked to North Beach in San Francisco. Joplin then recorded several songs with Jorma Kaukonen, the future guitarist for the rock group Jefferson Airplane.

During this time, she started to drink heavily and became known for her drug use. Her friends became worried about her, and in May 1965 they talked her into returning to her family in Port Arthur, Texas. After returning and living with her parents, she stopped using drugs and alcohol. She became a student at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and anthropology was her major.

Psychological Counseling

Starting in 1965, Joplin had regular counseling sessions with a psychiatric social worker. Joplin was confused about pursuing a career in music as a singer and not returning to drugs. Her drug-related memories often terrified her. The counselor reassured her that partaking in drugs wasn't necessary for her to be a singer in the music industry. Despite the counseling, Joplin remained confused about the role drugs played in being successful in the music industry.

Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company

Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company

Big Brother and the Holding Company

On June 4, 1966, Joplin was asked to join a group created by Chet Helms called Big Brother and the Holding Company. During this time, Joplin was able to avoid drugs for several weeks. Eventually, however, she relapsed.

In July, all members of the band moved into a house located in Lagunitas, California. Joplin and the band members often spent time with members of the Grateful Dead who were living less than two miles away. In December 1966, Joplin's band worked with music producer Bob Schad. Their debut album was released in August 1967. During the spring of 1968, the group and Joplin had reached the height of their success together.

Janis Joplin with Dick Cavett

Janis Joplin with Dick Cavett

Television Appearance

Joplin's first nationwide television appearance occurred in July 1968. She performed with Big Brother and the Holding Company on ABC's This Morning program. During 1969 and 1970, Joplin was on a prime-time program hosted by Dick Cavett. To take advantage of Joplin's growing popularity, the group's name was changed to Janis Joplin and Big Brother. This resulted in a lot of resentment toward her from other band members. Joplin kept getting good reviews for her singing. An issue of Vogue magazine published in May 1968 called her one of the top leading female singers in the world of rock music. Joplin split from the Big Brother band and formed a band called the Kozmic Blues Band.

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Drug Relapse

It was said that during the first few months of 1969, Joplin was using $200 of heroin each day. There were many efforts made to get her clean as she recorded an album with her new band. She lived in the home of a music producer named Gabriel Mekler during 1969. He tried to keep her away from her friends who used drugs and focus on recording sessions. All of his efforts failed to stop her drug addiction.

Janis Joplin performing during Woodstock

Janis Joplin performing during Woodstock


Joplin got bored when waiting to perform. During this time, she drank alcohol and shot heroin. It was obvious she was suffering the effects by the time she went on stage to perform. Her voice wasn't faring well, and she struggled to move on stage. Joplin quickly changed and her performance improved. She would engage with the audience who seemed to be enjoying her performance. Joplin was able to interact with such musical legends as David Crosby, Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, and more.

Newspaper article about death of Janis Joplin

Newspaper article about death of Janis Joplin


Janis Joplin died on October 4, 1970, from an overdose of heroin in the Landmark Hotel in Hollywood. She was found by John Cooke, who was her guitarist. It was determined Joplin had been dead for 12 hours. Multiple needle marks were on her arm. She was 27 years old.

Janis Joplin's Porsche 356 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Janis Joplin's Porsche 356 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

In 1995, Joplin was inducted posthumously into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She is ranked as number 46 on the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine. Some of the exhibits provided from Joplin's estate are her scarves and necklaces, her Porsche 356 covered with psychedelic paintings, and more.

Janis Joplin's star on Hollywood Boulevard

Janis Joplin's star on Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Joplin was given the 2,501st star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in November 2013. This was done for her many contributions to the music industry.

Janis Joplin stamp

Janis Joplin stamp


The U.S. Postal Service released a Janis Joplin commemorative stamp in August 2014.

Janis: Little Girl Blue documentary

Janis: Little Girl Blue documentary


A biographical documentary about Joplin was released on December 15, 2015. It is called Janis: Little Girl Blue.


Janis Joplin was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.


© 2020 Readmikenow


Readmikenow (author) on September 30, 2020:

Nathan, thanks. I agree with you. It is a terrible thing for drugs to have taken someone so talented at such a young age.

Nathan M from Tucson on September 30, 2020:

You can't help but think that Janis would have had a lengthy very successful decade spanning career, if she hadn't passed so young.

Readmikenow (author) on September 29, 2020:

Pamela, thanks. I agree, she died much too young.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 29, 2020:

This is a good article about Janis Joplin. I always liked her energetic performances. It is a shame she got hooked on heroin to such a bad degree and overdosed. This is an interesting article, Mike.

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