Chanteuse américaine, Janis Lyn Joplin est née le 19 janvier 1943 à Port Arthur, ville portuaire du Texas. Elle est décédée d’une overdose le 4 octobre 1970 à Los Angeles.
Janis Lyn Joplin (19 January 1943 – 4 October 1970) was an American singer, songwriter, and music arranger, from Port Arthur, Texas. She rose to prominence in the late 1960s as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and eventually a solo career. She is widely considered one of the greatest artists of the 1960s and one of the greatest female rockers of all time. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Joplin #46 on their list of the 50 Greatest Artists of All Time. Her career continued until her death in Los Angeles, California of a drug overdose at the age of 27.
Janis Joplin nait le 19 janvier 1943 à l’hôpital St. Mary à Port Arthur, au Texas. Fille de Seth Joplin, employé chez Texaco, elle a un jeune frère et une jeune sœur, Michael et Laura. Elle grandit en écoutant des musiciens de blues comme Bessie Smith, Odetta, et Big Mama Thornton, et chante à la chorale locale. Au lycée Thomas Jefferson, elle sèche souvent les cours.
Plutôt attirée par la peinture initialement, c’est au lycée qu’elle commence à chanter du blues et du folk avec des amis. Joplin entre à l’Université du Texas d’Austin en 1960, où elle n’obtiendra jamais de diplôme. Une rumeur raconte qu’elle avait été élue « le garçon le plus laid » du campus.
Cultivant un comportement « rebelle » qui pourrait être vu comme libéré — le mouvement de libération de la femme n’en était qu’à ses balbutiements — Joplin se trouve un style à partir de ses idoles féminines du blues, ainsi que dans la Beat Generation. Elle quitte le Texas pour San Francisco en 1963. Sa consommation de drogue augmente : elle est accro au speed et consomme occasionnellement de l’héroïne, entre autres. Elle boit aussi énormément : sa boisson favorite est le « Southern Comfort », une liqueur de Louisiane.
Comme beaucoup de chanteuses de cette époque, l’attitude agressive de Janis en public est à l’opposé de sa vraie personnalité. Le livre Love, Janis, écrit par sa sœur, révèle que dans sa vie privée, Joplin était une femme très rationnelle, timide, sensible, et très dévouée à sa famille. Néanmoins, flambeuse fameuse, elle eut de nombreuses relations sexuelles d’un soir, notamment avec, parmi les plus illustres, (pas tous en même temps, certes) Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe McDonald, Kris Kristofferson et même, de passage à Londres, avec Eric Clapton, sans compter quantité de jeunes filles volages.
Janis Joplin déménage de nouveau dans San Francisco en 1966, où, grâce à sa voix très blues, elle rejoint le Big Brother and The Holding Company, un groupe montant, surtout populaire auprès de la communauté hippie. Le groupe signe un contrat avec le label indépendant Mainstream Records et enregistre un album auquel ils donnent leur nom en 1967. Cependant, le manque de succès de leurs premiers singles conduit l’album à rester peu vendu.
Le premier grand succès du groupe a lieu au festival pop de Monterey, où ils jouent notamment une version de « Ball and Chain » de Big Mama Thornton, avec une performance vocale exceptionnelle de Janis. (Le documentaire de D.A. Pennebaker Monterey Pop montre Cass Elliot, co-chanteuse du quartet pop The Mamas & The Papas, parmi la foule, disant « Wow, that’s really heavy » (« Wow, c’est hallucinant »).) Cette performance, ainsi que leur album de 1968 Cheap Thrills, caractérisé par des morceaux remplis d’émotions, ont fait de Janis Joplin une des stars incontournables de la musique de la fin des années 1960.
Après s’être séparée de Big Brother, elle forme un nouveau groupe pour l’accompagner, le Kozmic Blues Band, et enregistre I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama ! (1969). La même année, elle participe au célèbre festival de Woodstock. Le groupe se sépare rapidement, et Joplin forme le Full Tilt Boogie Band.
Ils enregistrent l’album Pearl (1971), qui sort après sa mort. Il devient l’album le plus vendu de sa courte carrière, grâce à certains tubes comme « Me and Bobby McGee », et le chant a cappella « Mercedes-Benz », commentaire social ironique, écrit par Joplin et Michael McClure.
Parmi ses dernières apparitions en public, on peut la voir à deux reprises dans l’émission télévisée The Dick Cavett Show le 25 juin et le 3 août 1970. Elle a également participé au Festival Express 1970, un festival itinérant et délirant à travers le Canada en juillet de la même année, avec Buddy Guy, The Grateful Dead, The Band et tant d’autres.
Pendant l’enregistrement de « Pearl » en automne 1970 avec son nouveau Full Tilt Boogie Band et le producteur de Phil Ochs Paul A. Rothchild, Janis Joplin décède à 27 ans. Sa mort est due à une overdose d’héroïne le 4 octobre 1970. Cependant, personne n’a jamais retrouvé de seringue sur les lieux du décès. Ses derniers enregistrements complets sont « Mercedes-Benz » ainsi qu’un chant d’anniversaire pour John Lennon le 1er octobre 1970 ; Lennon raconta plus tard à Dick Cavett que l’enregistrement n’arriva à sa maison à New York qu’après sa mort.
Elle n’est enterrée nulle part. Elle fut incinérée au cimetière Westwood Village Memorial Park à Westwood, un quartier de Los Angeles, en Californie, et ses cendres furent dispersées du haut d’un avion dans l’Océan Pacifique. Quinze jours plus tard, conformément à ses dernières volontés (elle avait laissé un chèque de 2500 $ à cet effet), une immense fête rassembla ses amis. Sur le faire-part on pouvait lire « drinks are on Pearl » (les boissons sont offertes par Pearl).
L’album Pearl, sorti six semaines après sa mort, contient une version de « Buried Alive In The Blues » (« Enterré(e) vivant(e) dans le blues/océan »), morceau qui resta instrumental, Joplin étant morte avant d’enregistrer la voix.
Peu reconnue par sa ville natale durant sa vie, elle fut célébrée plus tard. En 1988, sa vie et son œuvre furent récompensées à Port Arthur, où un musée à son nom comporte notamment une sculpture en bronze de Douglas Clark.
Le film de 1979 The Rose est largement inspiré de la vie de Janis Joplin. Bette Midler fut nominée pour un Academy Award de la meilleure actrice.
1967 : Big Brother and the Holding Company (box of pearls 01)
1967 : Light is faster then sound
1967 : Live at Monterey (International Pop Festival)
1968 : Cheap Thrills (box of pearls 02)
1969 : I got dem ol’kozmic blues again mama! (box of pearls 03)
1969 : Live in Woodstock
1969 : Live texas (international pop festival)
1969 : Summertime, live in amsterdam (04-01-69)
1971 : Pearl (box of pearls 04)
1972 : Joplin in concert
1973 : Janis Joplin’s greatest hits
1974 : Early performances
1974 : Soundtrack from janis movie
1975 : Janis
1982 : Farewell song
1984 : Cheaper thrills
1993 : Janis (CD set)
1995 : 18 essential songs
1997 : Absolute Janis
1998 : Live at Winterland ’68
1999 : Rare pearls (box of pearls 05)
2001 : Love, Janis
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Janis Joplin was born to Seth, an engineer at Texaco, and Dorothy (East) Joplin, was the registrar at a business college. She had two younger siblings, Michael and Laura. As a teenager, she befriended a group of outcasts, including Jim Langdon and Grant Lyons, the latter of whom played her the blues for the first time. She began singing in the local choir and listening to musicians such as Leadbelly, Bessie Smith, Odetta, and Big Mama Thornton. While at Thomas Jefferson High School, she stated that she was mostly shunned. Primarily a painter while still in school, she first began singing blues and folk music with friends.
Joplin graduated from high school in 1960 and attended the University of Texas at Austin, though she never obtained a degree. She lived in a building commonly referred to as « The Ghetto, » located at 2812 1/2 Nueces Street. The campus newspaper ran a profile of her in 1962 headlined « She Dares To Be Different ».
Cultivating a rebellious manner, Joplin styled herself in part after her female blues heroines and, in part, after the Beat poets. She left Texas for San Francisco in 1963, living in North Beach and later Haight-Ashbury. In Haight-Ashbury, Joplin lived in the same building as the chess master Jude Acers.
On June 25, 1964, Joplin and future Jefferson Airplane guitar player Jorma Kaukonen recorded a number of blues standards, further accompanied by Margareta Kaukonen on typewriter (as percussion instrument).
These sessions, recorded in non-stereo sound on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, included seven tracks: « Typewriter Talk, » « Trouble In Mind, » « Kansas City Blues, » « Hesitation Blues, » « Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, » « Daddy, Daddy, Daddy » and « Long Black Train Blues, » and were later released as the bootleg album The Typewriter Tape. More early recordings are found on the album collection Janis, including the tracks « What Good Can Drinkin’ Do », « Mary Jane » and « No Reason For Livin' ».
Around this time her drug use began to increase, and she acquired a reputation as a « speed freak » and occasional heroin user. She also used other intoxicants. She was a heavy drinker throughout her career, and her trademark beverage was Southern Comfort.
In April 1965, several months after Joplin recorded the tracks with Kaukonen, her friends, noticing the physical effects of her amphetamine habit (she weighed 88 pounds (39,9 kilograms)), convinced her to return to her parents in Port Arthur, Texas. Living at home, she changed her entire lifestyle. She avoided drugs and alcohol, began wearing relatively modest dresses, adopted a beehive hairdo, and enrolled as a sociology major at Lamar University in nearby Beaumont, Texas. Nevertheless, she still corresponded by mail with a methamphetamine dealer she had known in San Francisco and even considered his proposal of marriage. Shortly after the man visited the Joplin household wearing a conservative suit and tie, charming the entire family and asking Mr. Joplin for permission to marry his daughter, the man broke off contact with her. During her year at Lamar University, she commuted to Austin to perform solo, accompanying herself on guitar. One of her performances was reviewed in the Austin American-Statesman.
In 1966, Joplin’s bluesy vocal style attracted the attention of the psychedelic band Big Brother and The Holding Company, a band that was gaining some renown among the nascent hippie community in Haight-Ashbury. She was recruited to join the group by Chet Helms, a promoter who had known her in Texas and who at the time was managing Big Brother. Helms’ promotion company, Family Dog Productions, was becoming a major force in the San Francisco scene rivaling Bill Graham. Joplin joined Big Brother on June 4, 1966. Her first public performance with them was at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco on June 10.
On August 23, 1966 the group signed a deal with independent label Mainstream Records. They recorded an album in the fall, but due to the lack of success of their early singles, the album was not released until August 1967, shortly after the group’s breakthrough appearance in June at the Monterey Pop Festival. The Big Brother set at Monterey included a version of Big Mama Thornton’s « Ball and Chain. » Joplin’s performance at Monterey, like that of Jimi Hendrix, made her an international star virtually overnight. (The D.A. Pennebaker documentary Monterey Pop captured Cass Elliot in the crowd silently mouthing « Wow, that’s really heavy » during Joplin’s performance.)
In November 1967, the group parted ways with Helms and signed with top artist manager Albert Grossman, who had become famous in his own right as the manager of Bob Dylan. Up to this point, Big Brother had performed only in California (mostly in San Francisco) but they had gained national prominence with their Monterey performance. On February 16, 1968, the group began its first East Coast tour in Philadelphia, and the following day they gave their first performance in New York City at the Anderson Theater.
On April 7, 1968, the last day of their East Coast tour, Joplin and Big Brother performed with Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Paul Butterfield, and Elvin Bishop at the « Wake for Martin Luther King, Jr. » concert in New York.
During the spring of 1968, Joplin and Big Brother performed on a short-lived variety show hosted by Dick Cavett. Although the video and audio of that particular broadcast are gone, she made three subsequent appearances on Cavett programs, all of them preserved on color videotape and later DVD. (A preserved black & white videotape of Big Brother performing and talking about the constant arrival of hippies in the Haight Ashbury in April of 1967 was broadcast only in San Francisco at that time.)
Big Brother’s second album, Cheap Thrills, featuring cover design by counterculture cartoonist Robert Crumb, was recorded in New York and Los Angeles between April and June 1968 and released in August. Combining concert performances and studio recordings, it had a raw quality, including the sound of a cocktail glass breaking and the broken shards getting swept away during the song « Turtle Blues. » Together with the documentary film Monterey Pop, released to repertory movie theaters in early 1969, the album made Joplin into one of the leading musical stars of the late Sixties.
Cheap Thrills, which also gave the band a breakthrough hit single, « Piece of My Heart, » debuted at the number one spot and stayed there for weeks, selling over one million copies in its first month of release alone.
Live at Winterland ’68, recorded at the Winterland Ballroom on April 12 and 13, 1968, showed Janis and Big Brother and the Holding Company at the height of their mutual career working through a selection of tracks from their albums.
The group made another East Coast tour during July-August 1968, which included performances at the Columbia Records convention in Puerto Rico and the Newport Folk Festival. After returning to San Francisco for two hometown shows at the Palace of Fine Arts Festival on August 31 and September 1, Joplin announced that she would be leaving Big Brother. The group continued touring through the fall and Joplin gave her last official performance with Big Brother at a Family Dog benefit on December 1, 1968.
After splitting from Big Brother, Joplin formed a new backup group, the Kozmic Blues Band. Modeled on the classic soul revue bands, the group backed her on the I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! album in 1969. Their first public performance was at the Stax-Volt Christmas Show in Memphis, Tennessee on December 21, 1968, with The Bar-Kays, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Albert King, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, William Bell and Eddie Floyd.
Reviews of the new group were mixed. Some music critics, including Ralph Gleason, felt that the band’s horn section competed with her voice — criticisms that infuriated Joplin, who was under a lot of pressure as the first female in a hard rock band to leave the band and then get solo billing. Other reviewers, such as reporter Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post generally ignored the flaws and devoted entire articles to celebrating the singer’s magic.
Joplin toured successfully with the band across North America and Europe throughout 1969, including a Saturday night performance at the legendary Woodstock Festival in August. The Kozmic Blues album, released in September of 1969, was certified gold later that year but did not match the success of Cheap Thrills. At the end of the year, the group broke up. Their final gig with Joplin was at Madison Square Garden in New York City on December 21, 1969.
The documentary film Woodstock omitted her entire performance. These omissions of her singing at the festival, along with comments from Joplin publicist Myra Friedman (present at the event) and from the post-production crew of the movie, suggest strongly that Joplin was not at her best that weekend.
At least one audience member, however, remembered her performance fondly twenty years later. The 25th anniversary director’s cut of Woodstock includes just one of her selections from the concert: Work Me, Lord. The segment begins with Joplin asking the audience, « How you doin’? » and then advising people who are stoned to « drink lots of water. » She then plunges into the song. Gabriel Mekler, who produced the album, told publicist-turned-biographer Myra Friedman (after Joplin’s death) that the singer had lived in his house during the recording sessions at his insistence so he could keep her away from drugs and her drug-using friends (who included Peggy Caserta).
By the time Joplin reached Woodstock, her drug use returned, Decades later, Caserta and Myra Friedman recalled how disappointed she was in her performance and the amount of heroin she used. In addition to her stage fright at Woodstock, she had trouble at Madison Square Garden where, as she told rock journalist David Dalton, the audience watched and listened to « every note she sang with ‘Is she gonna make it?’ in their eyes. »
She told Friedman and others in the music business that she was a lot more nervous and prone to drinking and drugging in recording studios and playing large venues than at the Fillmore West and other small clubs. Her behavior while making the album that would follow Kozmic Blues turned out to be tragic proof that she felt that way, and Mekler would not be there for her. A writer for Playboy magazine noticed during the Kozmic Blues sessions that Joplin made her own amateur recordings of each day’s takes with a Sony cassette recorder and, after leaving the studio at night, played them repeatedly searching for mistakes. Waiters ejected her and the writer from restaurants.
In February 1970, Joplin got clean and sober in Brazil. She was accompanied on vacation there by her friend Linda Gravenites, who had designed the singer’s stage costumes from 1966 to 1969. Joplin was romanced by an American schoolteacher named David Niehaus, who was traveling around the world. They were photographed together in a crowd at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Returning to the United States, the singer then formed the Full Tilt Boogie Band. Composed mostly of drug-free Canadian musicians who didn’t associate with her friends from Big Brother, the band included an organ but no horn section. Prior to beginning a summer tour with Full Tilt Boogie, she performed in a reunion with Big Brother at the Fillmore West in San Francisco on April 4, 1970. Recordings from this concert were included in an in-concert album released posthumously in 1972.
In late June 1970, Joplin and her new band joined the all-star Festival Express tour through Canada, performing alongside The Band, The Grateful Dead and others. However, the financial and other problems that led to the tour being cut short also resulted in most of the concert footage remaining unseen until more than thirty years after Joplin’s death. Footage of her performing the song « Tell Mama » in Calgary became an MTV video in the 1980s. The audio portion of same was included on the 1982 Farewell Song album. The audio of other Festival Express performances were included on that 1972 Joplin « in concert » album. But the visual element stayed in a vault until the 21st century release of the Festival Express DVD.
In the « Tell Mama » video shown on MTV in the 1980s, Joplin wore feathers in her hair and a loose-fitting costume, all of which had a vaguely psychedelic color pattern. This was her new standard stage costume in the spring and summer of 1970, captured in all the color footage from the Festival Express and on the color videotape used by The Dick Cavett Show. Members of her band and her entourage called her « Pearl » at her request to describe her new public image, but she did not want the media to report the nickname.
During the last week of Joplin’s life, Circus contained a color photo of the motley feathers in her hair. The new costumes came after her designer, Linda Gravenites (whom Joplin had praised in the May 1968 issue of Vogue), resigned shortly after their return from Brazil.
The last recordings Joplin completed were « Mercedes Benz » and a birthday greeting for John Lennon on October 1, 1970, Happy Trails composed by Dale Evans. Lennon, whose birthday was October 9, later told Dick Cavett that her taped greeting arrived at his home after her death. On Saturday, October 3, Joplin visited the Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles to listen to the instrumental track for Nick Gravenites’ song « Buried Alive In The Blues » so she could lay down vocals the next day. When she failed to show up at the studio by Sunday afternoon, producer Paul Rothchild became concerned. Full Tilt Boogie’s road manager John Cooke drove to the Landmark Motor Hotel (since renamed the Highland Gardens Hotel) where Joplin had been a guest since August 24. He saw Joplin’s psychedelically painted Porsche still in the parking lot. Upon entering her room, he found her dead on the floor. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.
Joplin was cremated in the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Mortuary in Los Angeles, and her ashes scattered from a plane into the Pacific Ocean and along Stinson Beach. The only funeral service was held at Pierce Brothers and attended by Joplin’s parents and maternal aunt.
Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen
The Typewriter Tape 1964
Big Brother and the Holding Company
Big Brother & the Holding Company 1967
Big Brother & the Holding Company 1967
Big Brother & the Holding Company 1967 CD 1999
Cheap Thrills 1968
Cheap Thrills 1968, CD 1999
Live at Winterland ’68 1998
Kozmic Blues Band
I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! 1969
I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! 1969, CD 1999
Full Tilt Boogie
Pearl 1971 Columbia
Pearl 1971, CD unknown date
Pearl 1971, CD 1999
Pearl 1971, 2CD 2005
Big Brother & the Holding Company / Full Tilt Boogie
Joplin: In Concert 1972
Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits, 1973
Farewell Song, 1983
Cheaper Thrills, 1984
18 Essential Songs, 1995
The Collection, 1995
Live at Woodstock: August 19, 1969, 1999
Box of Pearls, 1999
Super Hits, 2000
Love, Janis, 2001
Essential Janis Joplin, 2003
Very Best of Janis Joplin, 2007
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