THE ROSE  (1979)
Historical Context:  Print -- Video -- Online

Janis Joplin

[1]    Janis Lyn Joplin was born January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas.  As an adult Janis took every opportunity to bash her hometown.  Janis was the oldest of three children, in a working class family.  As a young girl Janis was very popular and made friends easily.  She was also well known in her school community for her artistic ability.  She designed posters for student campaigns as well as posters for the town library.  Janis was also involved in many clubs and organizations, such as the Glee Club, Reading Circle, Art Club, Future Teachers of America, and Future Nurses of America.  Janis Lyn Joplin was not so different from her peers.

 [2]    During her high school years Janis became conflicted by her desire to belong and her rejection of Port Arthur’s societal values.  Port Arthur was an oil refinery town that believed in racial segregation.  It was a town where color lines were literally drawn by the railroad tracks.  In addition to her disapproval of the society in which she lived, Janis also had lost her “girlish cuteness.”  She developed acne and gained weight.  Janis also had a love for books and knowledge which was not an acceptable role for women in her town.  Her love for knowledge turned into an estrangement from her family.  The combination of these factors in Joplin’s life created a fire in Janis to partake in all that was not acceptable for women; she cursed, began drinking, and was sexually outrageous.  She gained an interest for beat writers and jazz music; she believed that everyone should live in the moment.

[3]    After high school, Janis went to college briefly at Lamar State College of Technology and the University of Texas.  In college Janis spent most of her time in “jam sessions” and focusing on her true passion, music.  In January of 1963, Janis left her home town of Port Arthur and moved to San Francisco.  In 1966, Janis joined a band called Big Brother and the Holding Company, as their singer.  Janis returned home to her 10-year high school reunion, in order to show all the people that she despised what a big star she had become as well as her wealth.

[4]    Janis was an influential woman in rock music.  She emerged onto the music scene just as the women’s liberation movement began to take hold.  Janis became associated with the movement.  Janis, however, never sang about women’s liberation, she most often stuck to singing male-female love songs.  Unlike singers Joan Baez and Judy Collins, Joplin’s music had a razor-type sound that could grab the attention and applause from any crowd.   Janis attributed her sound to the influence of African American musicians.  Joplin also did not ignore the influences of country music in her sound.

[5]  In 1968 Janis left the Holding Company to pursue a solo career.  It was at this time that she performed a memorable performance at the Woodstock Festival.  Joplin recruited a back-up, which became known as the Kozmic Blues Band.  It is rumored that during her work with the Kozmic Blues Band that her alcohol and drug addiction increased and became an even more serious problem.  However, her life had begun to look  up, she was going to release her album Pearl (her nickname) and was also engaged to be married.  She played with the Kozmic Blues Band played until her death on October 4, 1970.  Janis died in her Los Angeles hotel room of an over-dose of heroine  -- a drug that she had used on and off  during her career.

Print Resources

Amburn, Ellis.  Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin.  New York: Warner Books, 1992.

This biography tells the of Janis Joplin who wailed the blues like no one else had ever dared.  She is considered the first rock star of the counter culture.  In this particular biography Ellis Auburn interviews a variety of people who knew Janis Joplin.  He discusses her life and her death in attempt to realize the facts of the life and times of Janis Joplin.

Campbell, Gavin James.  “‘The Outer Limits of Probability’: A Janis Joplin Retrospective.”  Southern Cultures 6.3 (2000): 100-11.

This chapter of Southern Cultures discusses the influence of Port Arthur on the life of Janis Joplin.  Campbell addresses Joplin's rebellion as a desire to rebel against the southern culture in which shewas raised.  Cambell discusses in detail the effects of growing up in a racially segregated town on Joplin's life.  He also discusses how she rebelled against the role in which she was expected to fit in and how she struggled with the acceptable and the outlandish.

Echols, Alice.  Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin.  Ontario:
Fitzhenry Whiteside LTD, 1999.

Echols addresses not only the life of Janis Joplin but the her sphere of influence.  With her death a generation lost an icon of their time.  Echols explores Janis's musicianship as well as her beliefs in high-risk living.  This work is also considered to be a vivid depiction of a cultural history that still affects society today.

See also:

Joplin, Laura.  Love, JanisPetaluma: Acid Test Productions, 1992, 1999.

Friedman, Myra.  Buried Alive: The Biography of Janis Joplin.  New York : Harmony Books, 1992.

Video Resource

Pennebaker, D.A., dir. and prod.  Moneterey Pop.  The Foundation, 1969.

Alk, Howard, dir. and prod.  Janis.  Crawley Films,1974.

Online Resources

Biography.Com gives an encyclopedic definiton about the life of Janis Joplin.  Where she is from, where she went, and how she died.

Other Sites:

Big Brother & the Holding Company

The Cult of Janis

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin: Life and Times

Janis Joplin WebRing

Official Janis Joplin Web Site

Pearl-Janis Joplin

Ricmusic: Women of Rock Collection

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Tribute


The Unofficial Janis Joplin

Copyright (c) 2001 Jessica Roche, Graduate Student at Lehigh University.

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