Janis Joplin and the Sexual Revolution
Janis Joplin and the Sexual Revolution

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Janis Joplin and the Sexual Revolution

10 Joplin’s lasting reputation

For Joplin – as for many others, both famous and unknown – heroin addiction proved to be fatal. She died of an overdose on 4 October 1970, 16 days after Hendrix who choked to death on his own vomit while intoxicated with barbiturates (also dying at the age of 27).

Figure 7 Janis Joplin performing in the late 1960s

Activity 6

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Joplin’s reception has been marked by an array of contradictory images, which Brackett has summed up:

Joplin's career was riddled with contradictions: she was labelled the first ‘hippy poster girl’, yet claimed by progressive writers as a proto-feminist for her assertive performing style, extrovert public persona and status as a bandleader. Another contradiction surfaces in the contrast between her ‘one of the boys’ image and that of Joplin as a ‘victim’, an image promoted by the tales of suffering outlined in many of her songs and by reports of her personal life.

(Brackett, 2001)

Which of these images do you think suits her best? You might think that a mixture – or perhaps even none at all – fit best.

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Joplin’s image was subjected to many different interpretations (both in her own lifetime and posthumously): from unattractive to ‘hippy poster girl’; from ‘one of the boys’ to wholly woman; from ‘victim’ to empowered and liberated. Although there is certainly no single right answer to this question, what is clear is that her contradictory image reflects her difficult position as a rare woman in the male-dominated world of rock music.


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