Janis Lyn Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas, on January 19, 1943, to Dorothy Bonita East (1913–1998), a registrar at a business college, and her husband, Seth Ward Joplin (1910–1987), an engineer at Texaco. She had two younger siblings, Michael and Laura. The family belonged to the Churches of Christ denomination.
Her parents felt that Janis needed more attention than their other children. As a teenager, Joplin befriended a group of outcasts, one of whom had albums by blues artists Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Lead Belly, whom Joplin later credited with influencing her decision to become a singer. She began singing blues and folk music with friends at Thomas Jefferson High School.
Joplin stated that she was ostracized and bullied in high school. As a teen, she became overweight and suffered from acne, leaving her with deep scars that required dermabrasion. Other kids at high school would routinely taunt her and call her names like “pig,” “freak,” “nigger lover,” or “creep.” She stated, “I was a misfit. I read, I painted, I thought. I didn’t hate niggers.”[
Joplin graduated from high school in 1960 and attended Lamar State College of Technology in Beaumont, Texas, during the summer and later the University of Texas at Austin (UT), though she did not complete her college studies.The campus newspaper, The Daily Texan, ran a profile of her in the issue dated July 27, 1962, headlined “She Dares to Be Different.”[ The article began, “She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levis to class because they’re more comfortable, and carries her autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song, it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin.
“]While at UT she performed with a folk trio called the Waller Creek Boys and frequently socialized with the staff of the campus humor magazine The Texas Ranger.According to Freak Brothers cartoonist Gilbert Shelton, who befriended her, she used to sell The Texas Ranger, which contained some of Shelton’s early comic books, on the campus. Wiki
Recalling Janis Joplin’s Massachusetts concerts 50 years after her death
Rock singer Janis Joplin, seen here on April 5, 1969, just three weeks before her show at the Eastern States Exposition Coliseum in West Springfield. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
By Ray Kelly | email@example.com
During a meteoric career, Janis Joplin made a name for herself in Massachusetts halls ranging from The Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston to Springfield Municipal Auditorium.
Joplin, who died 50 years ago on Oct. 4, 1970, gave her last public performance at Harvard Stadium on Aug. 12, 1970. A poorly recorded bootleg exists of that 31-minute set, which included “Mercedes Benz,” “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” and “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Less than two months after that Boston show, Joplin would die from a heroin overdose at the age of 27.
Joplin released just three albums during her lifetime, including two as a member of Big Brother & The Holding Company. She came to national prominence for her performance at the Monterey Pop Festival during the Summer of Love.
“Along with Grace Slick, Joplin is one of the dominant female voices of rock in the late 1960s,” said John Dougan, a Brookfield native and professor of music business and popular music studies at Middle Tennessee State University.
“She accomplished this by channeling the proto-feminist legacy of female blues singers of the so-called ‘classic blues’ era of the 1920s and ’30s — Man Rainey, Alberta Hunter (and) Bessie Smith among many others. It’s clear that Joplin emulated the their vocal styles to a degree, but also the pain, rage, loneliness, and sexual longing that suffused their work.”
He added, “Remember the line in her iconic cover of ‘Piece of My Heart’ — originally recorded by Aretha Franklin’s sister, Irma: ‘I’m gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough’? That’s sentiment that traces back 40 years earlier. Joplin was able to take the lessons learned by these great bluesmen and reinterpret them for a younger generation of rock fans.”
In the late 1960s, Joplin brought that sound to Bay State halls ranging from the youth hockey Ridge Arena in Braintree to a college gig at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, not to mention a couple of shows at Boston Music Hall.
“Her live act was great for a simple reason — intensity,” Dougan said. “Watch a video of her performing there’s a joyous physicality to her onstage. She really digs deep into a song. More than a lot of performers Joplin is frequently ‘in the moment.’ She loses herself in the song, but never loses the song. Her onstage power can be overwhelming, but not to the point where she loses the emotional thread of what she’s singing.
That’s a deft balancing act. Plus, she’s joyous sexual. Not simply in a provocative way, but in a manner that a little subversive, a woman fully in control of her own desires and expressing them in a forthright manner. That’s powerful and empowering.”
Her first concert in the four western counties as a member of Big Brother & The Holding Company took place at the University of Massachusetts’ Curry Hicks Cage in Amherst on Oct. 25, 1968. The show kicked off at 10 p.m., according to a surviving $2 ticket stub, but what was played that night has been lost to history.
She returned to Western Massachusetts six months later for a show at the Eastern States Exposition Coliseum in West Springfield on April 25, 1969 with top seats fetching $7.50
By then, middle American was familiar with Joplin. The “Monterey Pop” documentary had opened in movie theaters nationwide a few months earlier and her soulful March 16 performance of “Maybe, Maybe, Maybe” on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was still fresh in people’s minds.
Still, it raised a few eyebrows when the Boston Symphony Orchestra invited Joplin to open its summer concert season at the Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood on July 8, 1969. (The Who and Jefferson Airplane would play Tanglewood later that summer.)
An estimated 7,700 people showed up at Tanglewood to hear Joplin perform with her Kozmic Blues Band. During her set, she reportedly complained about Massachusetts State Police and BSO officials clearing the shed aisles of enthusiastic fans.
Joplin would perform before a much larger throng a month later as one of the acts at the fabled Woodstock Music and Art Fair in Bethel, New York.
She made her final appearance in Western Massachusetts at Springfield Municipal Auditorium, now Symphony Hall, on Nov. 26, 1969.
Tickets for the Thanksgiving Eve concert, sponsored by Narragansett Brewing Co., were priced between $4 and $6 and sold at Music in the Round, Del Padre’s, Main Music and a few other Springfield music shops.
Joplin was backed that night by a 14-piece band and the Tombstone Blues Band was the opening act.
The next day, Joplin would be at Madison Square Garden in New York, singing with Tina Tuner at a Rolling Stones concert. Her performance there has been described as drunk, stoned and out of control.
In less than a year, she would be found dead in a Hollywood hotel room.