By early 1971, the infamous “Curse of 27” was wreaking havoc on the world of rock and roll. Starting way back with the original cursed rocker, Robert Johnson a stunning number of musicians had died tragically at the age of 27. Some of the most recent victims of the time were Brian Jones from the Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and sadly, today’s subject, Miss Janis Joplin. Just a few months later, another rock legend would meet his demise in Paris, but we will save that for another day. Janis Joplin was a tragic and talented soul, who’s posthumously released album “Pearl” went straight to Number One on the Billboard Charts. This album is also rated as #259 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Recorded with her last band, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, like much of her music, it is uniquely crafted covers with a few Janis originals. It opens intensely with “Move Over”, then we have the soulful ballad “Cry Baby”. Another great song is “My Baby”, a more bluesy ballad, but the album then hits its amazing peak, with her cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee”. This song is the ultimate Janis Joplin song for me, as it blends the perfect sweetness of her singing softly with the raw and intense passion few others bring to a song as it peaks. This song is directly followed by the last song she ever recorded, her own composition, “Mercedes Benz”, which features Janis singing with minimal accompaniment. In this context, its hard not to get emotional thinking about her sad and painful life that ended way too short.
One memory that stands out is a story of Janis Joplin returning to her 10th high school reunion, after reaching significant fame and success. All she wanted was some degree of acceptance from a group of people who had mostly ostracized her, bullied her and treated her with nothing but disrespect. Even as she had found her amazing place in the world, somehow she was still a non-person to this group of people. We can’t change what we have done in the past, but think about this going forward. Your interactions with people matter, and you can choose to either be a source of good or not in the life of each person you meet. It’s up to you.
Thank you, Janis, for your brief and brilliant stop here, and leaving us with such an amazing and permanent gift in your music.
“Freedom is just another word, for nothing left to lose…”