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

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Janis Joplin and the Sexual Revolution

4 Women in rock: Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin (1943-70) came from a middle-class background in Port Arthur, Texas. As an overweight, acne-afflicted teenager who loved the blues (a black music genre) in the deeply segregated South, Joplin was bullied at high school. This sense of being an outsider never left her, and she still recalled her experiences as a troubled and ostracised teenager in interviews given at the height of her fame over a decade later. Following her high school graduation in 1960, she attended the University of Texas at Austin during the early 1960s, although she did not complete her college studies. She began her career singing in bars in Texas and California. Attracted by the Haight-Ashbury hippie scene, she moved to San Francisco in 1966 and joined the rock band, Big Brother & the Holding Company. With Janis as vocalist, Big Brother & the Holding Company released two albums: Big Brother & the Holding Company (1967) and Cheap Thrills (1968). Although collaboration marked the early period of Big Brother & the Holding Company (whose members lived communally), after they performed at the Monterey Park Pop Festival in 1967, Joplin began to attract considerable attention as a star singer. Searching for individual stardom, she left Big Brother & the Holding Company and formed The Kozmic Blues Band (from professional session musicians) in 1968. Despite recording I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! (1969), The Kozmic Blues Band failed to come together; so she formed The Full Tilt Boogie Band in 1970. A heavy drinker and drug user who enjoyed relationships with many men and several women, Joplin was as known for her rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle as she was for her musicianship. She died of a heroin overdose in a hotel room in Los Angeles in 1970. She was 27 years old. Her final album, Pearl, was released posthumously in January 1971.

Figure 4 Janis Joplin c.1965–70

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