METRO PLUS

Reflections of a turbulent life

Janis Joplin was known best for her folk and blues numbers

Of the three famed `Js' in the swinging sixties, Janis Joplin was lesser known than Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison. Yet her tough blues-mama image outlived her drug induced death in film and biography.

Behind that hard exterior, Joplin was vulnerable to afflictions inflicted by excesses of alcohol and heroin.

The spectre of loneliness never left her, right from the teenage years, when she ran away from her native town of Port Arthur in Texas to make a singing career in California. Living mostly on dole in San Francisco and Venice, she sang folk and blues in bars.

Career and college education failed to take off and she returned south to her home state.

An invitation to sing for Big Brother and the Holding Company brought her back to California. Their performance at the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967 set her on the road to superstardom. "Piece of my heart" from the album "Cheap Thrills" went gold and No. 1 on the charts. Before long, she had become bigger than Big Brother, which she left in 1969.

Joplin's vocals in tracks such as `I got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues,' `Try (Just a little harder),' `Little Girl Blue,' and `Maybe' made her a major draw but her live shows were marred by her increasing addiction to drugs and alcohol.

On medical advice, she went easy on her travelling and formed the group Full Tilt Boogie Band.

In July 1970, the group toured Canada with the Grateful Dead. With the recording of `Pearl,' incidentally her nickname, things seemed to be on the mend. She was engaged to be married and the Tilt was doing well too.

On October 4, 1970, her body was found face down in her room at the Landmark Hotel in Hollywood, the puncture marks fresh in her arm. Coroners placed accidental heroin overdose as the cause of her death.

The album `Pearl' was released posthumously. Her version of ex-lover Kris Kristofferson's `Me and Bobby McGee' reached the pinnacle of the charts in 1971. `The Rose' starring Bette Midler was an account of the diva's turbulent life. Joplin's house in the Haight area of San Francisco was made a drug rehabilitation centre in 1999.

A GEORGE ANTONY

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