Janis Joplin - 'Kozmic blues'

by zteve

This is my tribute to Janis Joplin who I regard as one of the best American rhythm and blues singers of all time.

Janis Joplin was one of the great all time female vocalists. Her voice was raw and gravelly yet could find ways to pierce the heart. With out doubt she was an original 'wild child' of the 60’s living hard and fast but her life was tragically cut short. Janis broke the mould. She sang differently to other white female vocalists of the time and performed differently. Her voice was bluesy and soulful and her raunchy, rocking, performances left a legacy that would be a great influence to many female vocalists who came after her.

Making her name

Janis made her name as lead singer with Big brother and the Holding Company before going solo with her own backing groups, the Kozmic Blues Band and the Full Tilt boogie band.  

Janis Joplin poster

Janis Joplin

Early years

Janis Lyn Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas on the 19th of January, 1943. 


She was a student at Lamar State College of Technology and the University of Texas, Austin, but began singing in folk and blues songs in clubs around Texas and dropped out of her studies.


Moving to San Francisco she began to abuse amphetamines and alcohol before returning to Texas. 

Big Brother and the Holding Company

 In 1966 she returned to San Francisco to join up with Big Brother and the Holding Company as lead singer of a hard-rocking band.  In 1967 the album Big Brother and the Holding Company was released.


They released Cheap Thrills an album with Mainstream Records before giving a barnstorming performance at the 1967, Monterey Pop Festival.  Their performance climaxed with a Big Mama Thornton rhythm and blues classic “Ball and Chain”.  Her lead singing was sensational and she produced a legendary performance that was to make her name.


Inspired by their success at the festival the band recorded a chart topping album, Cheap Thrills in 1968.  A single, Piece of My Heart reached number 12 in the charts.

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Janis: Little Girl Blue

The Kozmic Blues Band

She left Big Brother and the Holding Company to go solo and formed the Kosmic Blues Band as her backing group.   On 11th of September, 1969 she released the album “ Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!  which within two months of release attained Gold status.  Janis had descend into heroin abuse after her Woodstock performance and the band split up

Janis on YouTube

The Full Tilt Boogie Band - Tragedy strikes!

In 1970 Janis formed the Full Tilt Boogie Band and began recording Pearl a new album.  She also became engaged to marry but tragedy struck when she took an accidental overdose of heroin and died.   The album was released posthumously and topped the charts in 1971.  A single, Me and Bobby McGee also reached the top.

Janis - Her own way

Musically she had been heavily influenced by blues artists such as Bessie Smith, Odetta, and Big Mama Thornton and Leadbelly.  Her lifestyle was influenced by the Beat poets such as Allen Ginsburgh and was seen as “liberated” and rebellious, but she sang her own way and lived her own way.


As a performer Janis Joplin was different to other white female singers of her day.  Her voice could be powerful and passionate or soft, tender and delicate and she could express a range of feelings in a few simple notes. When she sang she gave herself up to the music, expressing intense feelings with her voice and body movements. 


The raw intensity of her soulful, raunchy, blues vocals combined with the uninhibited way she moved to the music was not seen as conventional behaviour for a white female singer at the time.  Nevertheless, in the music world these were exciting times when conventions were being broken and boundaries were being pushed back to allow new artists with new ways to breakthrough into stardom. 


Her legacy

Janis was the outstanding white female blues singer of her day.  Her style was passionate, soulful and bluesy yet could be raunchy and naturally unconstrained in her singing.  In 1995 Janis was given a place in the Rock and Roll hall of Fame and in 2005 awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.


At the height of her fame in the late 1960s Janis Joplin was revered as the Queen of Rock and Roll and the Queen of Psychedelic Soul.  In 2004 she was ranked as 46 in the Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and later as 28 on its 100 Greatest Singers of All Time 2004 list. 


Janis on Kindle

Buried Alive: The Biography of Janis Joplin

Electrifying, highly acclaimed, and intensely personal, this new and updated version of Myra Friedman's classic biography of Janis Joplin teems with dramatic insights into ...

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Piece Of My Heart (Da Capo Paperback)

In 1972, Stonehill Books published David Dalton's Janis, a multimedia extravaganza that incorporated interviews, quotes, photographs, lyrics, Rolling Stone Clippings, sheet ...

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Biographies on Amazon

Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin was the skyrocket chick of the sixties, the woman who broke into the boys' club of rock and out of the stifling good-girl femininity of postwar America. With her ...

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Love, Janis

A revealing and intimate biography about Janis Joplin, the Queen of Classic Rock, written by her younger sister. Janis Joplin blazed across the sixties music scene, ...

$11.99  $9.59

Tributes to other stars by this author

This is my tribute to Jimi Hendrix who I regard as one of the finest ever guitar players and a pioneer of modern popular music.
This is a tribute to Otis Redding, who I regard as one of the greatest Soul singers of all time.
Updated: 05/18/2014, zteve
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Mira on 05/19/2014

I saw now you posted a bio written by her younger sister. I'd be interested to read that, and hope I will sometime, so thanks for that, too.

zteve on 05/19/2014

Thanks! Yes it was a shame to die at such a young age. When I get a chance I will try and find and post other videos I have seen.

Mira on 05/19/2014

Oh, I didn't know that performance of Piece of My Heart. Nice find! She was young and beautiful. And quite vivacious. It's unbelievable it was meant for her to die at 27.

Mira on 05/19/2014

Sure :-) I love that Ball and Chain performance, by the way :))

zteve on 05/18/2014

Hi Mira, Yes it did show three videos were not available. I changed the videos so hopefully all four are showing everywhere. Well spotted and thanks!

Mira on 05/18/2014

Hi zteve, it tells me the first three videos are no longer available. Is it the same where you are?

zteve on 05/18/2014

Yes I still listen to her. too. Thanks and thanks for commenting CountrySunshine!

CountrySunshine on 05/16/2014

I've always been a fan of Janis In fact, the only CDs I carry in my truck are her albums. Nice tribute!

zteve on 08/23/2012

Yes she helped pave the way for many of today's top female artists. Thanks for commenting!

katiem2 on 08/23/2012

Janis Joplin is an amazing presence. I've always been very intrigued about her. Thanks for bringing Janis to our attention. :)K

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