I grew up utterly enraptured with the music of Janis Joplin. Maybe I related to her music so much because she, too, had grown up feeling like an outcast. She’d been bullied and called names in school. She loved to read. She also adored music. She started her singing and playing in high school and fell even more deeply into it in college. She dropped out – another path called to her.
Soon she had left Texas for San Francisco and she delved heavily into the scene there. It involved drug use. It got so bad that her friends sent her back to Texas to sober up.
That lasted a little while – but a few years later her great talent caught the eye of bands in San Francisco who wanted her to come back out again. She was torn between the allure of the opportunity and the fear that she’d relapse. In the end, she went.
The growing popularity of Janis and the Big Brother band caused fractures. Some felt Janis should ditch Big Brother and go off on her own. Others felt she was getting too much attention for what was an ensemble effort. In 1968 she even performed at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA – although long before I attended there :).
Unfortunately, by that time she was shooting over a thousand dollars of heroin a day (in today’s dollars). In October 1970 while working on a recording session set she bought heroin for the evening. It turns out the dealer must have had an over-pure batch come in. Several of his clients ended up dying from it. This was ruled an accidental overdose.
She was only 27 years old.