High Times Greats: Janis Joplin

50 years after her death, we revere Janis Joplin as America’s greatest female rocker ever, but still don’t know what made her tick.
High Times Greats: Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin in 1970/ Wikimedia Commons

For the September, 1993 issue of High Times, Cree McCree provided an exhaustive profile of Janis Joplin, who died on October 4, 1970. She was the brashest of the brash, the life of San Francisco’s flower-power party. To commemorate the half-century mark following her passing, we’re republishing the story below, followed by a sidebar tribute featuring Debbie Harry, Exene Cervenka, Jennifer Barry, and Maria McKee.

Little Richard said you can hear the holy spirit in Janis Joplin’s voice. She could (and did) sing clear as a bell, but it was the cracks in that bell—multiphonic cries that splintered a single note into a three-tone chord—that set loose the spirit dancers. Listening to her now—on a marathon “Ball and Chain” bootleg from late 1968—I hear an exquisite glossolalia of rage become rapture, of pain become prayer, her voice dipping and soaring like a host of fallen angels beating their wings in flight.

I never saw Janis live, but for the past few months I’ve been chasing her ghost. Perched atop my computer in an old Scavullo photograph, bedecked in beads and that gold crocheted vest she practically lived in on-stage, Janis grins at me, her eyes crinkled with glee in that mutable Play Do face. One day she even spoke to me:

Talk about the Kozmic Blues, man. It’s like a joke on itself, I mean it’d have to be, wouldn’t it? To get shot down when YOU’RE ALREADY FUCKIN’ DEAD!?!? That’s supposed to be your ticket to ride, man, that’s the Great American Way: This is my body, take, eat! This is my blood, take, drink! Take another little piece of my heart! Sure it kills you but, hey, you get to live forever. That’s supposed to be the tradeoff. Everybody knows that.

Yeah, Janis, you’re right. Death certainly didn’t kill Jimi Hendrix, who’s been more prolific posthumously than most living rock stars, and whose T-shirt-emblazoned face remains a requisite fashion statement for all aspiring guitar heroes. But that’s cool, I know you’re down with that; you bonded with Jimi bigtime, over Southern Comfort and your separate-but-equal missions to penetrate the very core of the blues.

I bet what really sticks in your craw is the canonization of that chauvinist pig Jim Morrison, who has never slipped out of heavy rotation. It’s legend that you bashed Morrison over the head with a whiskey bottle, but it wasn’t until I got an eyewitness account from your old Texas pal and Big Brother manager, Chet Helms, that I knew exactly WHY: “He unzipped his pants and put his penis in her face, and she hauled off and whacked him good.” Right on, sister!

The Morrison-bashing incident is typical Janis, who also belted another oinker, Jerry Lee Lewis (true to form, the Killer hit back). An Uppity Woman if there ever was one, Janis Joplin pre-dated the feminist movement (she also pre-dated Roe v. Wade, flying to Mexico for a botched abortion while already a star). Considering how much Janis accomplished during her 27-year existence, it’s no wonder she’s pissed that her legacy seems to have been inherited by the wind. Think about it: When was the last time you saw anyone wearing a Janis Joplin T-shirt? Or heard her voice come over the radio?

Signs of Janis are everywhere, however. The simultaneous publication of three Joplin biographies last fall created a brief flurry of renewed interest, but neither Ellis Amburn’s tabloid-trashy Pearl, Laura Joplin’s sweet-sisterly Love, Janis or the reissue of Myra Friedman’s still-definitive Buried Alive (a bestseller when it first came out in 1973) burned up the book charts. In 1991, Janis was in the news when the
Joplin estate prevented a play based on the singer’s life from continuing its Seattle run. Broadway producer Manny Fox (Sophisticated Ladies) currently owns the theatrical and film rights for future dramatic treatments of Janis Joplin’s storied life. A play and movie are in the works.

But those efforts are still in limbo, as is Sony/Columbia Record’s long-awaited Joplin box set, which has been mired in disputes between Sony and the Joplin estate for years. “We’ve been saying it’s coming out soon for so long it’s getting pretty old,” admits Janis’ brother, Michael, who along with Laura Joplin manages the estate. “Sony has one idea and we have another. It’s been hard to come to terms.”

Such complications have contributed mightily to the post-death demise of Janis Joplin, a vanishing act that borders on cultural crime. Shortly after her 1970 smack/booze overdose—a fate no less sordid than Hendrix’s or Morrison’s, but perceived as somehow more unseemly for a woman— the circumstances of Janis’ death began to overshadow her life. Blame Bette Midler’s grotesque portrayal of a vaguely Joplinesque singer distorted into an obsessive-neurotic in The Rose (she earned an Oscar nomination for the 1979 role). But what really did Janis in was the Reagan-era backlash against the fever-pitched excesses of the ’60s. Having first deified her as the Goddess Immediata, cultural revisionists promptly circled her corpse like vultures, brandishing Janis as Everything That Went Wrong With Be Here Now-ism.

“It was Janis Joplin, in particular, who symbolized the tone and temper and mood of her time,” Janis’ former publicist/confidante Myra Freidman writes in the new introduction to Buried Alive. “She had espoused a philosophy of the immediate, a disdain for the future, an appetite for the instinctual. She voiced these beliefs repeatedly, and they were every bit as important as her fear—not really so distant from the wellspring of her credo either—that she was just ‘an ugly chick from Port Arthur, Texas with not too much talent.’”

That this “ugly chick” forged a triumph out of that fear, transforming a raw natural gift into one of the most expressively nuanced instruments of any generation (and becoming a sex goddess in the process) is a remarkable achievement. Hopefully, Janis’ probable, but by no means certain, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January will refocus attention on that achievement. Meanwhile, amidst the current ’60s revival, whose bell-bottomed, lace-and-tatters gypsy chic Janis helped pioneer, there has never been a better time to reconsider Janis Joplin’s brilliant art within the context of her brief but spectacular life.

The Texas Tornado

Whether by accident of birth or by cultural immigration, geography is often destiny. This was certainly true for Janis Joplin, who had two key coordinates on the geo-psychic map she trailblazed to stardom: her home state of Texas and her adopted home of San Francisco. “A mixture of Leadbelly, a steam engine, Calamity lane, Bessie Smith, an oil derrick and rotgut bourbon funneled into the 20th century somewhere between El Paso and San Francisco” is how Cashbox, the music-industry trade publication, described Janis’ nascent public persona in 1966.

Janis Lyn Joplin was born on January 19, 1943 in the then-booming refinery town of Port Arthur, with which she would have a lifelong, highly public feud. It was Texas (and neighboring Louisiana) that bequeathed Janis her deepest musical roots. It was also Texas that branded her a social outcast, ridiculing her as “pig,” “whore” and pro-integration “n@gger-lover.” “They laughed me out of the class, out of town and out of state,” she told Dick Cavett in 1970.

What wasn’t there to like about this bright, talented young woman from a good middle-class family? She dressed weird, for openers, in scandalously short skirts that did little to hide her pudgy figure. Her face was a teenager’s nightmare, pitted with acne that would leave lifelong scars. She swore like a trooper and spoke up for civil rights in classrooms where integration was not yet open to debate. She scorned Top 40 radio and brazenly advertised her passion for black music and culture by crossing the color lines in local bars. She was the very antithesis of the nice suburban girl growing up in 1950s America.

Janis took refuge in painting, her violent slashes of vivid colors on canvas foreshadowing a voice still buried inside. She ran with an all-boy literati gang steeped in Leadbelly, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday, Burroughs, Kerouac and the Beats. Tary Owens, one of the gang members, recalls across-the-river escapades into Louisiana honky tonks and blues bars that often culminated in barroom brawls with the bartender firing shots into the ceiling. Janis more than held her own in this hard-drinking posse, and booze became—and would remain—a constant companion.

But, more importantly, such forays were Janis’ introduction to live music. “The thing about being from Texas,” says Owens, “is musicians have always played everything. The same band plays blues, soul music, R&B, country, straight rock ’n’ roll, and usually two or three guys can play jazz. So it was natural for janis to embrace all of that.”

Janis graduated from high school on the cusp of a new decade in 1960. She boomeranged between attempts at “normalcy” (attending Lamar State College of Technology in nearby Beaumont and Port Arthur College) and stabs at Bohemia (an extended stay in Venice, California) before finally merging the two lifestyles in Austin as a student at the University of Texas in 1962. One night Janis stunned her new friends in UT’s hip enclave called “The Ghetto” with a tape she’d just made.

“It was a Bessie Smith song. We went insane when we heard it, absolutely bonkers,” recounts Clementine Hall, a close friend and founding member of the 13th Floor Elevators. “Her voice was magnificent, rich and clear, with a deep burr in it. We didn’t even know she could sing!”

The discovery that Janis could for-real sing, not just in the church choir or in classically oriented family musicales, was a profound revelation. Ever so humbly, she ventured into Austin’s flourishing folk music scene, playing autoharp in solo gigs and singing with the Waller Creek Boys bluegrass band. “Janis had to be literally dragged onstage the first few times she sang in public—threatened and told, ‘You can do it, you can do it, you can’t run away,’” says Hall. “She wore all black from head to foot and tried to disappear as much as possible.”

Janis’ hypersensitivity about her singing ability—which she never really outgrew—co-existed inside a powerful persona. “We listened to her like an oracle,” Hall recalls. “I know it sounds absurd for a 19-year old girl to have that kind of influence, but honest to God, she spoke with absolute authority on every subject—and we listened.” The only woman on campus who didn’t wear a bra, and one of the few to make the Dean’s List of designated “troublemakers,” Janis was UT’s one-woman liberation army.

However, all was not well on campus. In a cruel déjà vu of her high-school humiliations, the frat houses nominated Janis as the “Ugliest Man on Campus.” She tried to laugh it off, but the reopened wound festered beneath her bravado, and hastened her next move—to San Francisco, in the company of fellow Texan and fledgling San Francisco entrepreneur Chet Helms.

The Post-Beatnik Years

The very first night they arrived in San Francisco, still road-weary from the long hitchhike from Texas, Janis launched a beer-and-change career on the coffeehouse circuit. Word spread fast that this new chick from Texas could really wail. Her performances from this era—a few of which were released on the posthumous Janis in 1975—are stunning, some as stark as the Texas flatlands, others almost uncanny invocations of Bessie Smith’s smoky jazz-club blues.

Never much of a pothead, Janis preferred the hyperactive rush of speed, the drug of choice for San Francisco’s fading beatnik community. “People like their blues singers miserable,” Janis later said, and at this point she seemed hellbent on proving it. Despite interest from record labels, Janis managed to sabotage most of the opportunities. “Whenever she’d be on the verge of moving up to the next plateau, some disaster would happen,” says Helms, her manager at the time. Deals regularly dissolved in the wake of speed-and-booze-steeped accidents and brawls.

Things went from bad to worse when Janis first escaped to, then from, New York, where she continued shooting speed in the summer of 1964. Back in San Francisco and hooked on methedrine, Janis weighed just 88 pounds. In the spring of 1965, friends pooled their cash and sent her packing on a Greyhound home to Port Arthur.

Kicking her habit and re-enrolling at Lamar State in a valiant attempt to “go straight,” Janis tried to compromise that year, says Laura Joplin, “but the one thing that felt honest and right for her was music.” It wasn’t long before she was drawn back to Austin, where the 13th Floor Elevators were rapidly transforming the folk scene with the same psychedelic rock that was about to explode in San Francisco. Janis was particularly taken with lead singer Roky Erickson, who would stretch his voice way past the usual limits for a white vocalist. “She was always a belter, but never a screamer,” says Helms. “That aspect of her [the screaming vocals] was pretty directly derived from Roky.” Adds the Elevators’ Clementine Hall, “Roky showed her how to scream in a way that you didn’t injure your vocal cords.” It was excellent training for a woman whose cords were about to get the workout of a lifetime.

The High Priestess of Hippiedom

Janis loved to say she was “fucked into joining Big Brother.” Chet Helms had called in June of 1966, summoning her back to San Francisco to join Big Brother and the Holding Company, the hottest attraction at Helms’ Avalon Ballroom. The “fucked into” talk made great copy, but it was hardly the whole story. As longtime roomie and style guru Linda Gravenites observes, “Janis wanted to succeed in capital letters, on her own terms. To be famous and show everybody.”

And show ’em she did. The mix of Janis’ bare-your-soul vocals and Big Brother’s garage-band psychedelia was an instant ticket to ride on the kaleidoscopic rollercoaster of the Brave New World whose epicenter was San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. With the “Summer of Love” a year away, the burgeoning hippie scene was still untainted by gawking tourists and Time magazine reporters. Life was an open door of endless possibilities, and the music never stopped. The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Santana all melded together with Big Brother in communal celebrations where free outdoor concerts were the rule and a couple of bucks bought entree into night spots like the Avalon and Bill Graham’s Fillmore Theatre.

Everyone loved Janis and Janis loved everyone. Her lovers at the time included Country Joe MacDonald (of Country Joe & the Fish); Peggy Caserta, the beautiful junkie who later cashed in on their liaison with the book Going Down with Janis; and Big Brother guitarist James Curley, whose wife Nancy remained a close friend. It was, after all, the “whatever” era, and arguably the happiest period in Janis’ life, when she could be a star without being a Star.

Janis’ overnight emergence as the Haight’s High Priestess of Hippiedom was an ironic twist for someone who rejected LSD, the hot drug of the moment, in favor of dope. “We considered ourselves beatniks,” reports Pat “Sunshine” Nichols, Janis’ roommate, confidante and long-since-recovered fellow junkie. “We were literate, we read Huxley and Kerouac and Rimbaud way before the Haight happened. Our set was elitist, we considered ourselves the most creative people, and we used [heroin] to enhance our creativity. The only thing [the hippie scene] gave Janis was the opportunity to do her own thing.”

Just a year after returning to San Francisco, Janis baptized thousands of born-again pagans at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 with her electroshock treatment of Ma Rainey’s classic blues, “Ball and Chain” (Jimi Hendrix, who torched his guitar, also emerged as a cultural shaman). Monterey had a dramatic effect on Big Brother: shortly thereafter, Bob Dylan’s kingmaker Albert Grossman took over management and Columbia Records signed the band to a contract (a previous deal with Chicago-based Mainstream Records had resulted in the group’s low-budget debut). Big Brother’s New York showcase in early 1968 incited what would now be called a media feeding frenzy. But they could care less about Big Brother. What they wanted was Janis.

“As soon as we started to achieve some success, the media jumped on us,” recalls Big Brother drummer Dave Getz. “They picked Janis as the star and the band as kind of dragging her down. There’s some truth to that. Janis was like a rocket. She became an incredible singer very fast.”

Big Brother’s Columbia debut, Cheap Thrills—featuring R. Crumb’s cover illustration—laid down a body of work synonymous with Joplin: the gut-wrenching wails of “Piece of My Heart,” Big Brother’s steamy reinvention of “Summertime” and, of course, the show-stopping “Ball and Chain.” Despite mixed reviews (“it’s a real disappointment,” Rolling Stone pouted), Cheap Thrills went gold just three days after its July 1968 release.

Janis was on her own trajectory now. In September, she told the band she was planning to form a new group as a solo artist. Big Brother’s last show with Janis Joplin, on December 1st, appropriately took place in San Francisco. Twenty years later, the breakup remains a sore point for guitarist Peter Albin. “I still haven’t forgiven her for the way she handled it,” he says. “She made the decision and that was it.” Albin also hasn’t forgiven the people he believes pressured Janis into the break-up: management and the media-mongers.

“Big Brother was an incredible band,” explains Tary Owens, Janis’ Texas pal, “but they couldn’t play a shuffle. They never had that backbeat rhythm Janis loved.” Guitarist Sam Andrews, the sole Big Brother member to segue into Janis’ Kozmic Blues Band, offers this perspective: “She wanted more of a soul and R&B sound, and also the power to control her own thing. People were shocked seeing a woman take that much power all of a sudden. She loved us and was good to us, but she was management and we were labor. That was a definite change.”

As Kozmic Blues Band leader Snooky Flowers puts it, “Janis wanted to be as powerful as we were. And she was.”

The Full-Tilt Boogie

What began as a hippie home movie had accelerated with the jump-cut speed of an MTV video. The mainstream media, desperate to translate the chaos of the ’60s into captions, found Janis so totally NOW, so soundbite-able. “Man,” she told the New York Times in a magazine profile, “I’d rather have ten years of superhyper-most than live to be seventy sitting in a goddamn chair watching TV. Right now is where you are, how can you wait?”

Almost overnight, the Ugly Chick from Texas was making trend-setting fashion statements in Glamour and Vogue. A peacock’s worth of feathers and an arsenal of bracelets and beads topped Linda Gravenites’ “pirate-chick” combos of hip-hugging bell-bottoms, recycled lace and sumptuous velvets and silks. Draped over her shoulders was the foxy lynx coat Janis “extorted” from the makers of Southern Comfort, the sweet whiskey that became her trademark drink. But neither the ascendence of Janis’ floozy alter ego, “Pearl,” nor the continual lure of the needle, clipped the wings of a glorious voice that knew no bounds.

Though her seismic performances throughout 1969 incited fans to frenzy,
Janis’ new band—a horn-driven team of seasoned session pros assembled by Nick Gravenites (Linda’s husband) and guitarist and fellow user Mike Bloomfield—was cold-cocked by the same rock pundits who urged her to ditch Big Brother. Again, Rolling Stone led the charge, first challenging the band’s R&B authenticity, then attacking Janis in a particularly mean-spirited cover story that dubbed her “The Judy Garland of Rock and Roll.” Released in November to lukewarm reviews, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! deserved better. A baptism-by-fire into the soul of R&B, these sessions produced some of Janis’ best work, including “Try,” “Maybe” and her born-again gospelizing on “Work Me, Lord.”

Speeding towards a new decade in her psychedelic Porsche, Janis ran afoul of the law in Tampa, Florida, where she told the pigs to fuck-off when they tried to dampen a dancing-in-the-aisles crowd (Janis also inspired the FBI to monitor her self-proclaimed mission to “get them standing up when they should be sitting down”). Unhappy with the band’s revolving-door personnel changes, she played her last gig with Kozmic Blues in December. By the following April, Janis regrouped with the Full Tilt Boogie Band.

On the road all summer—highlighted by a multi-orgasmic train tour across Canada of rock ’n’ roll royalty including the Grateful Dead—Janis was raring to record again. The Pearl sessions in September found Janis expanding the dimensions of her kozmic blues and rediscovering her country roots, especially on the a capella “Mercedes Benz” and her still definitive take of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me & Bobby McGee,” with its gradual acceleration from down-home twang into, well, full tilt boogie.

The new band satisfied both Janis’ own artistic vision and her ever-vigilant critics. Unfortunately, her collision course with alcohol and heroin was about to take its toll. Janis already survived an overdose once in 1969, the year heroin exploded on the Haight-Ashbury scene. Her off-again, on-again habit was bound to catch up with her. And doctors, alarmed at the swelling of her liver, pleaded with Janis to stop drinking (one binge with Kris Kristofferson, known as “The Great Tequila Boogie,” lasted three weeks).

Alone in her room in Los Angeles’ Landmark Hotel on October 4,1970, Janis shot up a too-pure batch of heroin that fatally intersected with her booze-bloated veins. Just three weeks earlier, Jimi Hendrix was found dead in London. Now Janis was gone too.

Unlike the lingering mystery that still surrounds Jimi’s death, Janis’ death was incontestably accidental, and can only be construed as suicide on a symbolic level. “In a sense,” says Linda Gravenites, “she lucked out. She had a successful, though too short, life and she went right out on the top. That was her choice.”

“What most people forget about Janis is that she had a real good time,” Sam Andrew observes. Most of Janis’ intimates agree. As evidence, Linda Gravenites cites her old friend’s beyond-the-grave blessing. While leafing through a photo-essay tribute to her own contributions to hippie-chic style, Linda suddenly heard Janis’ voice. “She said, ‘See, it’s fun, isn’t it honey!’ And I had to admit to her, ‘Yes, it was fun.’”

The Cosmic Voodoo Child

For the forthcoming Janis film project, Michael Joplin, an accomplished glass artist, was asked to create a visual collage in homage to his sister. The image he chose looks uncannily like a voudoun altar. Votive candles burn amidst velvet, feathers and lace strewn with Joplin icons: a bottle of Southern Comfort, a pack of smokes, a well-worn copy of Cheap Thrills, faded photos and magic mojos from deep blues country. And this is as it should be.

I believe Janis was a mambo, a voudoun priestess—and not only in the general sense of rock ’n’ roll possession so compellingly traced to its roots in Michael Ventura’s revelatory essay “Voodoo and the Origins of Rock and Roll” (Whole Earth Quarterly, Spring, 1987). She was ridden by and, as a mambo, conducted her audience to be ridden by, “divine horsemen”: ancestral archetypal forces that the Haitians call “loa.” Particularly, she was the serviteur of Ghede, the most paradoxically complex of the loa: Lord of Death, Lord of Eroticism, trickster/clown, taboo-breaker, insatiable glutton, teacher and healer. The parallels between the highly codified behavior that inevitably signals possession by Ghede—and Janis’ summoning of and eventual submersion in Pearl—are startling.

The “pinched, W.C. Fields-type voice” Janis used when inhabiting Pearl is clearly evident in documentary footage of her Port Arthur high school reunion trip in 1970. “Faaaantaaastic,” she responds to a “how-ya-doin’?” query from a local reporter as she sweeps into town in floppy black hat, purple feathers and amber-tinted shades.

“Indeed,” writes Maya Deren in her definitive study of Haitian voudoun, Divine Horsemen, “wherever and whenever men assemble, Ghede may choose to appear among them with his nasal voice, his black or purple colors, his smoked glasses and his perpetual hunger…. Ghede speaks in a nasal voice because a perfectly buried corpse would sound that way, and because, incidentally, it projects perfectly his cynicism.” The “perfectly buried corpse” is an eerie reminder that “Buried Alive in the Blues” was the song Janis was set to record the day after she died.

Like Ghede, Pearl was a devotee of strong drink and good cigars (she even appeared in a TV cigar spot). She would sometimes arrive, as Deren says of Ghede, “unbidden, at a ceremony for another loa, to ‘spoil it.’” One such incident occurred at a Grateful Dead concert just months before her death, as Chet Helms reports. “Janis was onstage, very drunk, kind of trying to upstage Jerry Garcia, goosing him onstage, very sexually provocative.” Indeed, sexual provocation is a primary function of Ghede, who Deren describes as “both tattered and beautiful. He confounds sex with sex, dressing men as women and women as men.” Just like Pearl, he’s a terrible tattle-tale—”he will tell all the juiciest morsels in public to the amusement and embarrassment of everyone”—but he’s also “generous with his wisdom,” as Janis’ friends and family confirm.

Most tellingly of all, perhaps, Ghede connotes “the anxiety, fear and ultimate withdrawal which he senses in all men, and which all his clowning and all their laughter can never quite obscure. Indeed, this ruler of men is, of all loa, probably the most lonely.” The correlations between Ghede and Janis’ Pearl—and there are more, many more—are so overwhelming they’re impossible to dismiss.

Whether or not Janis actually studied the rituals and history of voudoun is irrelevant (though it’s worth noting that Janis went to Rio for Carnival, when Ghede’s counterparts among Brazil’s “santeria” rule the streets). The forces she invoked and grappled with both onstage and off are inherent in the music that found her as much as she found it. Beneath its ostensible subject matter of hard luck, hard lovin’ and hard livin’, the blues encodes the language of shamans and shapeshifters, the mojo hands and ju-ju sticks that loop back to West Africa via the West Indies and, of course, New Orleans. An ultrasensitive like Janis, bred on the Texas/ Louisiana cusp of the Caribbean Gulf and steeped in country blues, could hardly escape those forces. How such forces interacted with American pop culture, with the omnivorous (and very Ghedeian) Zeitgeist of the ’60s—and, most profoundly, with Janis herself—is an essential part of her story that has never been directly addressed and which bears further study.

Like any great artist, Janis transcended her time and place. That she was also quintessentially of her time and place makes the magical subtext of her story all the more compelling, for the loa continually replenish the ancestral gene pool by serving the living in present time. As Michael Ventura writes, “Spirit always adheres to forms. That is why forms survive. Because even when specifics are forgotten, a form can retain the aura of what originated it and so pass on not the doctrine but the sense of life.”

Long live Janis Joplin.

Sister Stories

Debbie Harry, former lead singer of Blondie: ’’Janis has endured, because people do her when they don’t even know they’re doing her. You know what’s funny? A lot of these guys in metal bands and hard-rock blues bands all sound like Janis. The guys have got her down.”

Exene Cervenka, former lead singer of X, now a solo artist: “Janis was very brave, even though she had to drink and get fucked up to do what she did. It’s easy for Madonna to be brave—she’s got a great self-image, she’s pretty, she’s healthy, she’s got a trainer and so on. For Janis Joplin to step in front of a camera took a lot. The fact that everybody embraced her is really pretty amazing.”

Jennifer Barry, lead singer of Halfway Home: “I came across a copy of I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama in a bargain bin and that song ‘Maybe’ just totally tore me up. She’s so soulful, so raw, so real. I was totally an outcast, a complete loser too. Janis kicked the door right open for people like me.”

Maria McKee, lead singer of Lone Justice: “Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits changed my life. It made me realize that you could be a woman and open your mouth and let something like that come out.”

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