Janis Joplin Leads Women to the Truth

I want to pay tribute to an amazing singer; as well as a path-breaking woman. I am going to provide you with insights, information and inspiration from the life and creative legacy of Janis Joplin. In many respects, she will be remembered as a public pioneer in the women’s movement. Her story is a case study of the hippie counterculture.  I hope that you will enjoy this analysis ofand tribute to one of my main spirit guides (along with Jimi Hendrix , John Lennon, and Jim Morrison.)   Her spirit is more alive today then she was at the time of her death. BTW – although she died directly from an accidental overdose of extremely pure heroin; it really was alcohol that killed her (as it did Jim Morrison.)  Be sure and listen to her music and learn her lessons. 


As a scholar of both the women’s movement and the hippie counterculture, I am confident that Janis will emerge as the key link between the two. Her message to young women was to be yourself and do what you think is right. She lived and preached the gospel of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Above all she was known for her openness and honesty. She urged us to tell the truth and stressed the importance of individual rights and freedom. She never gave up in her quest for fame and friends.

Janis was truly a social change catalyst – as well as an political provocateur in her own way. She urged young people to question assumptions and authority. Above all she stressed that a woman could be just as powerful in society as a man. As the first female rock superstar she blazed the trail for most of the female and male singers alive. She was known to rap and chant during the ends of her shows. She got the audience moving and grooving like no one else could. She danced and shook with wild abandon.

In this tribute I have included several different recent articles about her impact; including the posthumous recognition she has received. Then I present a series of quotes from people who knew and admired her. Finally, I have pulled together some of her most important statements. Along with this you get a variety of pix that show the many sides o Janis Joplin.


Janis Joplin: A Cry Cutting Through Time By Paul Hendrickson
Washington Post – Tuesday, May 5, 1998

You think of Janis Joplin, whose music is so redolent of the ’60s, and what comes to mind? A woman who could bellow and cry and stamp and then turn around and go achingly tender. Someone who could sing up every song any truck driver ever knew. Someone in whom there seemed so much need, which somehow she transformed to our need.

You think of that sweaty and sometimes porcine face. Of the bad complexion. Of the tangled hair. Of the mouth eating the microphone. Of the pink feather boas. Of the layers of bracelets. Of the tattoos. Of the fifths of Southern Comfort carried onstage. Of that wild hillbilly cackle. (Remember how she just dissolves into it at the end of “Mercedes Benz” on her last album, as though everything, not just the ditty, but life itself, were so damn absurd?) Janis Joplin had an incredible cackle. She had a cackle like no one else in rock. It’s one of the clues to the other self. Sometimes, though, she could be surprisingly beautiful. Physically beautiful.


Was she selfish? You bet. Was she sexual? To her toenails. Was she self-destructive in both her pursuit of sex and her turned-inward lifestyle? “She defined men sexually, as she defined herself, and then went at her one-night stands and sometimes orgies under the cover of a liberated style of life. . . . She was left with little more than the yawning chasm of a tortured loneliness,” her publicist and biographer, Myra Friedman, wrote after Joplin’s death in one of the very best books about her. It’s titled, not wrongly, “Buried Alive.”

… That other self: It was always there, beneath the music, informing it, and we knew this, we just didn’t want to think about it very much. The other self wanted parental approval. The other self was surprisingly literate. The other self had this curious, fragile, little-girl quality about it. It had something ingenuous and middle-American about it. That the two selves were so impossibly in conflict is what the made the art go, fueled all the destruction.


Janis Joplin Biography by Margaret Moser

On the surface, she seemed the perfect icon for stardom in the late Sixties: She fit no standard of beauty yet exuded a raw sensuality that mirrored a movement which rejected societal standards by creating its own. When Janis Joplin arrived in San Francisco, in 1966, the year before the Summer of Love, its music scene was already in a nascent, post-Beat hippie whirl. Young people flocked to the Bay area as if to Mecca by the thousands, searching for identity, reason, justification, maybe just something as simple as acceptance.

This is the irony of all the great Sixties icons — Joplin included: that their desire for acceptance was at the heart of their rebellion, and that their ultimate embrace by the masses came about because of this rebellion. The sad part about rebellion, however, is that it usually follows rejection, and that was something Janis Joplin knew deep down in her soul.

What would Janis Joplin have been like today? Undoubtedly mellower; likely dried out and cleaned up, because if she wasn’t alcoholic at the time, she surely would have been soon. The toll would not have shown well on her face, but blues mamas are supposed to look the part, anyway. By dying young, she is frozen at the pinnacle of her success — brilliant and shimmering in the easy grace of audience acceptance and approval. She is, forever, raw iron soul.


The Immortals – The Greatest Artists of All Time: 46) Janis Joplin
By Rosanne Cash From RS 946, April 15, 2004

It’s hard to imagine now the extent to which Janis was so completely shocking at the time. There had been blues singers who were wild and unrestrained — but even they tended to be a little more buttoned-down than Janis. She always seemed on the verge of being totally out of control. Last summer, I watched the Monterey Pop Festival film for the first time in ages, and I was absolutely stunned by Janis. She had this focus that was relentless. She was a spectacle, like some kind of nuclear being bearing down on the crowd. In the film, you see Mama Cass at the end of Janis’ performance just shaking her head, standing up and applauding, like, “Oh, my God, what just happened?”

She had an unshakable commitment to her own truth, no matter how destructive, how weird or how bad. Nothing else seemed to matter. She was such an individual in the way she dressed, the way she sang, the way she lived. She loved her whiskey and made no bones about it. This was a full-blown one-of-a-kind woman — no stylist, no publicist, no image-maker. It was just Janis.


Other Recognitions

The 1979 film, The Rose, was loosely based on Joplin’s life. Bette Midler earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for her performance.

In the late 1990s, the musical play Love, Janis was created with input from Janis’ younger sister Laura plus Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew, with an aim to take it to Off-Broadway. Opening in the summer of 2001 and scheduled for only a few weeks of performances, the show won acclaim and packed houses and was held over several times, the demanding role of the singing Janis attracting rock vocalists from relative unknowns to pop stars Laura Branigan and Beth Hart. A national tour followed.

In 1988, the Janis Joplin Memorial, with an original bronze, multi-image sculpture of Joplin by Douglas Clark, was dedicated in Port Arthur, Texas.

Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

In the 2007 movie Across the Universe, Joplin is portrayed as Sadie, played by Dana Fuchs.


Quotes from Friends and Fans

“The thing about Janis is that she just looked so unique, an ugly duckling dressed as a princess, fearlessly so. Seeing her live was like watching a boxing match. Her performance was so in your face and electrifying that it really put you right there in the moment. There you were living your nice little life in the suburbs and suddenly there was this train wreck, and it was Janis.” — Chrissie Hynde

“The thing that really got me about Janis the most, was how liberated she was. She stood in that power even though it was kind of that platform of blues of being completely tormented, that enabled her to just stand there and let it go at a time when woman were not doing that…she just came out in the completely undone, unwrapped way and I think spoke right out of a woman’s soul. Directly.” — Ann Wilson

“We were too young, too rich and too happy to be suicidal.” — Grace Slick (In reflection of Janis’ overdose)


“She was very jazzy, I think. Every night it was all improvised.” — Mari Wilson

“I felt for her because she was pioneering that road and it’s a heavy responsibility and you’re out there on your own, you know?” — P.P. Arnold

“Janis didn’t, you know, do steps or anything, but she had this fabulous way of using her body that was very original; very much her own. I loved her.” — Bette Midler

“Janis had the friendly warm smile that is so rare and she gave them to everyone so freely.” — Yoko Ono


“I began feeling proud to be her role model. When I heard her sing, I recognized my influence, but I also heard the electricity and rage in her own voice. I loved her attitude.” — Etta James

“I have a deep, spiritual connection to Janis. And I don’t know how, why or when. But, I’ve always been extremely attracted to her energy, and her pain, and her voice, and her life. I just think she is one of the most amazing women that ever lived.” — P!nk

“Janis Joplin sings the blues as hard as any black person.” — B.B. King

“Listening to her is like being sucked into a vortex. She goes deep. That deep throaty depth. I’ve listened to a lot of blues. Nobody sounds quite like Janis Joplin. I mean, Janis Joplin without the ’60s would have still been Janis Joplin.” Todd Gitlin, author of “The Sixties”

“I think Janis represents the strength of women on their own. I think it has to do with strength, with independence. I look at Janis as a whole person. Drugs is not something we ever did together. I accept it, I accept all of it. I just can’t connect with it. I understand there’s a lot of ambiguity about her.” Laura Joplin (Sister in 1998)


Quotes Directly from Janis’s Open Mind and Mouth (Various Sources)

“Onstage, I make love to 25,000 people – then I go home alone.”

“Don’t compromise yourself. It’s all you’ve got.”

“You can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow.”

“Being an intellectual creates a lot of questions and no answers. You can fill your life up with ideas and still go home lonely. All you really have that really matters are feelings. That’s what music is to me.”

“You never can tell….Sometimes they think they’re gonna like you. And then you get out there and you really damage and offend their femininity. You know, ‘No chick is supposed to stand like that.’ I mean, crouching down in front of the guitar player goin’ ‘uuuuhhhn!’ You know, lettin’ your tits shake around, and your hair’s stringy, you have no makeup on, and sweat running down your face, you’re coming up to the fuckin’ microphone, man, and at one point their heads just go ‘click,’ and they go ‘Oooh, no!’ You get that a lot. It’s really far out. When you’re standing on stage you can’t see the whole crowd.


“All my life I just wanted to be a beatnik. Meet all the heavies, get stoned, get laid, have a good time. That’s all I ever wanted. Except I knew I had a good voice and I could always get a couple of beers off of it. All of a sudden someone threw me in this rock ‘n’ roll band. They threw these musicians at me, man, and the sound was coming from behind. The bass was charging me. And I decided then and there that that was it. I never wanted to do anything else. It was better than it had been with any man, you know. Maybe that’s the trouble.”

“Well, here it is – our first New York review from our first New York gig. … From all indications I’m going to become rich & famous. Incredible! All sorts of magazines are asking to do articles & pictures featuring me. I’m going to do everyone. Wow, I’m so lucky – I just fumbled around being a mixed-up kid (& young adult) and then I fell into this. And finally, it looks like something is going to work for me. Incredible. Well, pin the review up so everyone can see – I’m so proud.” Janis Letter home from June 1966

“Yes, folks, it’s me wearing a sequined cape, thousands of strings of beads & topless. But it barely shows because of the beads. Very dramatic photograph & I look really beautiful!! I’m thrilled!!! I can be Haight-Ashbury’s first pin-up.”


“Women Is Losers” from her first album

Women is losers
Women is losers, oh
Say honey women is losers.
Well, I know you must try, Lord,
And everywhere
Men almost seem to end up on top.

Oh, if they told you they want you
Say come around by your door.
Whoa I say now, if they don’t desert you,
They’ll leave you and never be here for more.
Oh yeah!

Women is losers
Women is losers
Women is losers, Lord, Lord, Lord!!!
So now I know you must-a know,
Lord, it’s true,
Men always seem to end up on top.

They wear a nice shiny armor
Until there is a dragon for to slay.
Any day now,
Course with men beggin’ to pay ‘em
Then they’ll turn and run away, oh!

Women is losers
Women is losers
Women is losers, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord!!!
So I know you must-a know, Lord,
Men almost seem to end up on top, oh!


Categories: Musician Tributes, Women | Tags: , , , , , , | 51 Comments

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51 thoughts on “Janis Joplin Leads Women to the Truth

  1. Emily Brooks

    Oh this is such a fantasticly, authentic attribution to a woman that can never be thanked…praised enough. I would love to suggest the book Love, Janis written by her sister Laura. I had no idea it was made into a play but it is truly an insipirational novel that encourages the reader to not only lto earn and love from her experiences, but also to find yourself through someone who lived to create and truly find the rawness of a soul.

    • Mandy

      Hey babe, I have read Love Janis by her sister Laura also Peice of my Heart, Buried alive, Sweet Scars of Paradise. I have DVDs Festival Express, Woodstock, Big Brother and nine hundred nights. The Dick Cavett show which all have some of Janis in them. I was only born in 1962 but after seeing The Rose I wanted to find out who this lady was; I knew she was someone totally special and I was right. I only wish I was old enough to see her in concert. I have all her CDs and I was very lucky to buy a record from a record market stand Kozmic Blues the origianal I recommend all the books to read, because they show all of Janis & yes I do believe she was born before her time, but she sure did shake the 60’s up. LOL!! For everyone that loves Janis, theirs a little bit of Janis in all of us. I for one listen to Janis’s music & play her DVD’s all the time.

      • mostafa l

        well you all right about janis,i didnt read any of the books,born 1964 i couldnt make it to any of her performences,but like you said there is a big part of janis in me man,and i,m proud to belong to that side

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  3. Caron Valentine

    I kept a pic of Janis on my fridge for years and then I discovered everyone thought it was me. Its the hair I think. I love her and have always wished that she had “taken the cure” for alcoholism. I miss her still.

    • Mandy

      One of her friends Linda said of Janis once; she had done her time & she did it well. I guess Janis wouldn’t have been Janis without that bottle of southern Comfort. Besides that’s why people liked her so much.

  4. pedrozo

    droga, ela era a dona do mundo, e se foi, 3 meses depois de ir embora daqui do Brasil..

  5. thank you so much for taking the time to credit one of our beloved fallen. i was at monteray and the avalon ballroom. janis was a part of my world, she was a sister who represented the new woman, the ones who had balls, (lol) there will never be another like her.

  6. My soul sista!


  7. Lynn Abbott

    Another tremendous post………. enjoyed reading! THANKS!!! LA

  8. i miss you janis

  9. Thanks. A really moving account of an amazing spirit. I agree with Pink who says “I have a deep, spiritual connection to Janis. And I don’t know how, why or when..” To me she is the embodiment of the ‘Goddess’, the ‘Wild Woman’ and the ‘free spirit’. She is a major influence on my life and my creativity.

  10. Me encanta janis! viva el rock,la libertad y la igualdad! hermosos tiempos… con su músicas dan ganas de hacer cosas y de revolución!

  11. Ella es única, nunca va a ser superada por nadie. Sacó a las mujeres del baúl en el qe estaban metidos para demostrar qe podemos ser como los hombres, sin diferencias. Janis es lo mejor qe pudo haber tenido la música.

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  13. Randy Ashton

    Janis smashed into my life when I was 16. Like so many people, in an instant, she changed my whole life. I can’t really spell this out in words. I think that a lot people reading about Janis will understand this. She was a powerful messenger from God, a witch, a shaman who in an instant could transform people’s lives. She did this for me and for so many other’s. I have my story, like so many others, of the moment when this happened. It was intense and I was never the same. The details do not matter. This moment has guided me through my life. In spite of her flaws and weakness as a human being, I believe that she delivered a wonderful message to the world. I love her both as a flawed human being and as a perfect messanger to the world. Janis you are beautiful and wonderful. I will always love you.

  14. Pamela Cooley

    I was born August,1966. I can remember my mama singing Janis Joplin songs to me growing up. I sung them to my children. “Me & Bobby Mcgee”, “Merecedes Benz”, “Cry”, “A Woman Left Lonely”,these are just a few to name. A woman taken from this world before her time, but left her mark on the world as well. I have lived my life by music and mood most of my life. It made me a well rounded person, just like Janis Joplin was to the women of her time. She is my “Hero” now and always.

  15. Awesome.

  16. JoKeRsWiLdE1

    man janis has made women rock stars what they are today i as a young singer male am greatful to know such a woman exsisted the vocals that come out of her grab the heart and shock it back from the up tight tension of the world today. THANK YOU JANIS!

  17. Tom S

    nice nipples – lick lick lick

  18. Felice

    Janis was a phenomenon in music, she was a “whithish” with the voice of a black woman, besides she added her lioness intense personality on her performances.
    Drugs were a part of the cultural era of the 70’s, and some of them were killers and still are even if they are not labeled as drugs.
    Alcohol is one of them. i
    I don’t remember one performance of hers in which she wasn’t drunk. But that is the case generally in all concerts.
    She left a legacy of female freedom and wake-up call that has not vanished yet, however, we need to echo her messages and to offer new ones. Men are what they are, society is a chauvinistic one that has to change, let’s be activists from home to capitol house.

  19. WHY? We wanted more!!!!

  20. Kathleen

    Great article-I don’t know Janis Joplin’s music or life and this opened me up to learning more about her

  21. YAA Adding this to my bookmarks. Thank You

  22. Thank you! 🙂

  23. Don Lawrence

    Its a shame someone of that much tallent has left us so early, It seems peopel who shine twice a bright, burn out twice as quick. Her music will be felt by many for a long time. We miss you…..

  24. Pingback: Jim Morrison – Break on Through to the Other Side « Dr. Tom’s HipHappy Times

  25. Assis Martins

    Excelente cantora… realmente uma das melhores cantoras do mundo.

  26. Pingback: Janis Joplan–Videos « Pronk Palisades

  27. Pingback: Janis Joplan–Videos « Pronk Pieces

  28. Ellen Araujo

    Amooooooooooo a Janis Joplinnnnnnnnn d++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


  30. Tamara J. Milam

    I want to know where she was the spring of 1967 and where was she then 9 mo prior? I am the spitting image of the Rock icon. I will not stop untill my birth records are esponged. A lot of deception went on along those times in hospitols, especially because of nam. I refuse to believe I came from a mentally retarded woman who concieved birth of her 1st cousin. I am a college student with good acedemic scores and hold no incapabilities or physical malformations. I can’t believe I am the result of all that. See me on Face book Tamara J.(Dobbins) Milam. Oh yeah, the article is very good.

  31. Judi

    Wow, this was great. From not knowing who Janis was but wanting to know more (I just love anything woodstock)this article has turned me into a fan 🙂 Oh this era was just so amazing, nothing like what we have now.. If only the clock could be turned back so that my generation could enjoy the free-love hippy spirit times. Born in the 80’s I have had little exposure, which I do regret.. so making up for lost time I guess. I will read some of the books recommended on here, sure they will be great. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Peace xo

  32. Janis was a bad ass i was born in the sixties never got to see her.I was hanging out at a party with some white friends in the 80s and someone was playing Janis and i was hooked .
    She is a super SOUL SISTER

  33. Chris Holland

    Thanks. Janis was, and is, simply the best. Always will be. Miss her.

  34. Amelia

    Janis Joplin was an amazing woman I look up to her a lot and can relate to her in some ways though im only 16 and was not around born or even thought of during the time she was alive i love her music and consider her an idol

  35. Juan Terron

    I honestly think that heaven is righ now full of wonderfull people,Janis,Jim Morrison.Lennon.etc etc.sometimes I really can`t wait to meet all of them.

  36. Frank

    Janis who…?

    Never heard of her

  37. Janis screamed for us all. Years of built-up, repressed pain– astonishing since we were all so young and mostly sheltered– our parents saying “we fought a war, what have you got to complain about…” Someone told me I was a dead ringer for Janis Joplin (if a foot taller) so I got the album, came home and played it. And out of the speaker came my pain, my voice, my grief, my frustration and my joy at the intensity of life, all bigger than life itself. Janis was the living embodiment of what I wanted to be, and then she was dead. I survived my alcoholism. So would she, today, many of her friends did, but back then it was so hard if you were an icon, especially one so tied in with hope-to-die hard-core full-tilt consumption. We survivors had to learn how to apply that philosophy to life without the substances, but her energy and courage still make her a role model. I have cherished Janis all my life, done portraits, collected photos, come to know many people who knew her, and she is still an inspiration. Thanks for your wonderful article. You avoided necrophilia while paying homage– not an easy thing to do!

  38. What a wonderful woman! If I could ever ask to meet someone from the past, it would be her, for sure.

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  45. Richard McDonald

    I am a bipolar Navy radarman vet who volunteered for duty in Vietnam. Bipolars get a rush from danger. I jumped from planes and once had to deploy my emergency chute. I also skiied down the steepest slopes. I was rule follower and late bloomer. Janice was an inspiration to me. I look forward to seeing her on the other side. RIP sweet Janice. Richard McDonald

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