- January 19, 1943 - October 4, 1970
- Los Angeles, California
of Janis' Passing
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Memories & CandlesPrevious
“When Janice died, I was 14 just in High School, i started
to imitate Janice's songs, I learnd how to play guitar, for the next 35 years of my life...Read More »
1 of 6 | Posted by: Martha Hernandez - albuquerque, NM
“Still listening to her music and learning more about her, she left us way to soon.
2 of 6 | Posted by: Don Lawrence
“I was lucky enough to meet Janis when she and Big Brother played Music Hall here in Cincinnati. I was a senior and the editorial pager editor for my...Read More »
3 of 6 | Posted by: Gary Shell
“I saw Janis by pure serendipity, by standing on a chair at the Newport Folk Festival in the Summer of '68. We all wondered, who was this wild woman...Read More »
4 of 6 | Posted by: Marilyn Brine - Holliston, MA
“Good job to whoever wrote this obit! Thank you.
5 of 6 | Posted by: Sarah in Oregon - Albany, OR
“Janis is more than a memory to me. She is woven into the fabric of my life. I own Box of Pearls and when I listen to it, it takes me back. I am fifty...Read More »
6 of 6 | Posted by: Lillian P
I am a die-hard Janis Joplin fan. Not only a fan of her music and voice (when not singing she had a quiet, little girls voice), but of the lonely woman she really was.
The Cosmic Giggle must have been in full-tilt hysterics on January 19, 1943 when the oil refinery seaport of Port Arthur, Texas, won the heavenly crapshoot as the birthplace of rock 'n roll's first female superstar, Janis Joplin.
In retrospect, Port Arthur's most famous daughter both defied and defined the Texas town that raised, rejected, reviled, then ultimately rejoiced in her brief, mad existence. In a way that she never would have admitted, Port Arthur made Janis Joplin what she was. A more tolerant, nurturing atmosphere might have diluted the fire that burned within her.
And that fire is what everyone knows about Janis Joplin. Her incendiary stage performances, her masochistic tango with the bottle, her tumultuous love life, and her fatal dalliance with drugs. Janis' musical legacy is also a part of Austin's history, how the disheveled folkie, U of Texas student, playing at west campus hootenannies and Kenneth Threadgill's bar on North Lamar, took off for San Francisco with some other Texans in the sixties and changed the history of rock 'n roll.
On the surface, Janis seemed the perfect icon for stardom in the late sixties. She fit no standard of beauty yet exuded a raw sensuality that mirrored a movement that rejected society's standards by creating its own.
When Janis arrived in San Francisco in 1966, the year before the Summer of Love, its music scene was already in a nascent, post-Beat hippie whirl. Young people flocked to the Bay area as if to Mecca by the thousands, searching for identity, reason, justification, maybe just something as simple as acceptance. This is the irony of all the great sixties icons, Janis included, that their desire for acceptance was at the heart of their rebellion, and that their ultimate embrace by the masses came about because of this rebellion. The sad part about rebellion, however, is that it usually follows rejection, and that was something Janis knew deep down in her soul.
The Janis Joplin of legend set the standard for the blues mama image of white female singers. Blues mamas have to be hard livin', hard lovin' and, of course, hard drinking. But life in the Gulf Coast town was not exactly hard and like much of the town's population Janis' father, Seth, worked at the Texaco refinery and the Joplins resided comfortably.
By all accounts, Janis had a happy childhood, but her entrée into womanhood was less than graceful. As a teenager, she tended to gain weight, her soft child-blond hair turned brown and unruly, and she developed acne that would scar as well as shape her looks and personality. She became an unwilling member of an elite club of misfits, a woman who avoided mirrors because of pitted reflections, knowing that the scars underneath caused by the ones on the surface are the most painfully inflicted. Rejected and made fun of by most of her peers, she sought and found solace in the works of other outcasts: writers, musicians, artists. When your society rejects you, you do the obvious. You reject it.
Janis felt like an ugly duckling because she did not fit anyone's notion of beauty. Port Arthur was a one-high-school town, and to be rejected by the school was to be rejected by the town. A culture that puts a premium on marketable feminine beauty has no use for the Janis Joplins of the world. Her kind of beauty can only be captured in its natural state, either candidly or in performance.
Look at the posed shots of Janis and you'd swear her eyes plead with you to like her, really like her. Look at the performance photos where she's lost in song. Examine the candid shots of Janis when her face is soft and vulnerable in repose. In front of the photographer's camera in a studio she was naked to the world, but in front of an audience she came alive, transforming into a vibrant and seductive entertainer who channeled every honker and shouter she ever heard on the Texas radio in the thick, black night.
For kids in East Texas' "Golden Triangle" (Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange) the promised land of booze and blues lay just across the Louisiana border. From the moment Highway 90 crossed the Sabine River, it was lined with clubs and juke joints, joints that attracted the locals as well as nearby Texans.
Clandestine forays over the border (called "going on the line") were a rite of passage in those days and one that Janis was exposed to early on because she ran with the boys in high school. On weekends, they would load up and drive across the state line where the brass heavy bands were tearing up the clubs. At this strip of clubs across the border, American rock 'n roll resonated endlessly in the night, its bluesy beats and frantic rhythms greased by the free-flowing booze, Texas drinking age was 21, Louisiana's 18.
The rowdy blues Janis saw live in Louisiana were a marked contrast to the classical music she was raised on in Port Arthur, and the omnipresent country music found in Texas. Her knowledge and quest for understanding inspired her to not just appreciate but to learn the music, taking up guitar, as well as singing. By the time she graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1960, she was imbued with an unusually well-rounded knowledge of music as well as a desire to explore its core.
What happened to Janis Joplin after she graduated high school is well known: College courses at Lamar Tech; a lifestyle expanding trip to Venice, California; more college courses back in Port Arthur where she played coffeehouses; a mid-summer 1962 trip to Austin resulting in her move there.
From Austin, Janis' life is even better documented. She played the folk circuit for a while locally, but left Austin for San Francisco and Newcontinued...