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American rock and blues singer who found her way into the beatnik and hippie countercultures and became an icon for American youth in the s, leaving an indelible mark on American music as she expressed her own angst through blues. Name variations: nickname Pearl. Pronunciation: JOPlynn. In the Louisiana border bars that were an easy drive from her hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, Janis Joplin would her girlfriends in flirting with the Cajun rednecks, trying to get the locals to buy them drinks, until the behavior would grow so outrageous that the Port Arthur visitors would have to flee to escape a fistfight.

Ferrying the drunken group of seven home, McQueen furiously pushed his Oldsmobile past miles per hour, lighting matches to check the speedometer on the dark dashboard, and refusing his passengers' pleas to slow down. Inevitably, the car went into a roll, turning over several times, but all seven walked away from the wreck, miraculously untouched, except for the drinks they spilled on themselves. Joplin's companions would later find her remarks about her high school days on a "Dick Cavett Show" baffling, if not galling. Just before her return to Port Arthur for her Class of reunion, Joplin told Cavett, "They laughed me out of class, out of town, and out of the state—so I'm going home.

In fact, Janis Joplin experienced a very moderate middle-class upbringing. Mary's Hospital to Procter after her birth on January 19, When Janis was six and her younger sister Laura Joplin was born, the family moved to the Griffing Park area, where her brother Michael was welcomed four years later.

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The Joplins' backyard served as the neighborhood gathering place, with the standard sandbox and play equipment created by Seth, as well as a puppet playhouse, a homemade Giant Stride, a tightrope, and a circular seesaw. Seth was a mechanical engineer at the Texaco plant, and Dorothy was employed at Sears and Port Arthur Business College, conveying a strong work ethic to Janis and her siblings, who did not lack for attention. Their father talked with them, played classical records for them, and entertained them in imaginative ways, such as taking them to the post office to see "Wanted" posters.

Trips to the public library were a highlight of family life, and Joplin remained a voracious reader throughout her life.

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Dorothy, a former radio announcer who played piano and sang until her singing voice was lost from thyroid surgery, encouraged her children to express themselves. In contrast to her later persona, Joplin did typical childhood things. In elementary schoolshe ed the Bluebirds, a Girl Scout-like organization, wrote plays for her puppets, took private drawing and painting lessons, and looked after her brother and sister. She showed enough intelligence to skip third grade. Though she performed with the church choir and the junior high glee club, she did not view herself as a singer.

In the seventh grade, she was a member of the local bridge club and the Tri Hi Y club.

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With the onset of adolescence and high school, her situation changed. By the ninth grade, in a decidedly conservative and segregated society, she demonstrated her independence of mind by voicing her support for integration, but she was part of the usual school activities, heading the journalism club, illustrating the high school literary magazine, and attending Arthur Murray dance classes.

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That summer, she appeared in the Port Arthur Little Theater's production of Sunday Costs Five Pesos and volunteered at the public library where she drew posters for the children's bulletin board. The next year, the high school hoodlums caught her eye, but she failed to fit into their clique.

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But she also violated the codes of normalcy of most high school kids of the s. Dropping the standard bobby sox and loafers, she took on a less feminine persona. She dressed in shortened skirts, without make-up and declining to act demure, and became "one of the guys. Joplin provided a degree of outrageousness that became a catalyst for their fun, as they climbed the local water tower, held beach parties, sang and drank beer. Embracing exotic philosophies and demonstrating their rejection of established society through unconventional dress, they looked upon themselves as the Port Arthur beatniks.

Within this group, Joplin left her former shyness behind, all her awareness of plumpness and poor skin abandoned in the sessions of drinking and talk. Sometimes, she ed them in climbs up the Rainbow Bridge, which spanned the narrow Nueces River at a height that allowed the passage of ocean-going vessels underneath.

Once, without her father's permission, she took his car and gathered up the guys for a trip to the bars of the New Orleans French Quarter. On the dawn ride home in the rain, they had an accident, totaling her father's Willis. What are they going to say about me? The accident, and the situation surrounding it, led to gossip and the beginning of Joplin's reputation in Port Arthur as a "slut," a situation not helped after her mother encouraged her to take mechanical drawing in her senior year; as the only girl in the class, she was assumed to be there to "chase" boys.

Since many of her gang had graduated by then, she endured the year on her own, reportedly mocked by students who threw pennies at her to ify that she was "cheap.

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But in that senior year and the summer after graduation, when she waited tables at the bowling alley, sold theater tickets part time, and also managed to sell a few of her paintings, several of the men who knew her have reported liaisons.

Instead of the freedom she had expected, Lamar replicated the high school scene of Port Arthur; her reputation also preceded her. Home the following spring, she ed up for classes at Port Arthur Business College, at her mother's urging, but missed most classes due to "illness. As her dependence on alcohol grew evident, she went to see both a psychiatrist and a psychologist, visits she later played up as a " nervous breakdown. In the summer offinanced by her parents, Joplin drove to Los Angeles in a Morris Minor convertible to get a job and stay with relatives, in particular her Aunt Barbara.

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Hired as a keypunch operator for the Los Angeles Telephone Company, she left her aunt's to explore her bisexuality and experience the beatnik scene at Venice Beach, which was by that time in decline. Taking a second job at the Bank of America, Joplin passed her summer in a daze of drug experiments, then returned to Port Arthur.

A friend allowed her to take the stage for one song, then scooted her off quickly when the performance was poorly received. Inshe recorded an advertising jingle for a local bank that went unused and sang in Houston at the Purple Onion, while continuing to wait tables at the bowling alley. Perpetuating her habit of frequenting the Louisiana bars with her cronies, she expanded her drinking tastes from beer to bourbon and Thunderbird wine, while her flirting games grew more dangerous.

That summer, visiting a friend in Austin, Joplin discovered the underground cultural life thriving at the University of Texas. Enrolled shortly afterward as a freshman art major, she drew enough attention with her attitudes and all-black style of dress taken by some as a of her sexual liberation to be written up by the student newspaper. She became sexually involved with Juli Paulmusician Powell St. John, and later underground newspaper editor Bill Killeen, and engaged in recreational one-night stands, while becoming more involved with her singing.

Joplin learned to play the autoharp to accompany herself, and later took up the guitar to avoid splitting proceeds with back-up musicians. As she began to experiment with marijuana, peyote, and secobarbital, she now sang weekly with the Waller Creek Boys Powell St. John on harmonica and Lanny Wiggins on guitar at campus "hootenannies" and at Threadgill's, a bar that highlighted live folk music, where owner Kenneth Threadgill allowed Joplin to sing one blues song per set.

She later claimed that she had never wanted to be a singer, but only to be a beatnik and have constant fun. Whatever her career goals, she began singing in coffeehouses—Coffee, Confusion, the Coffee Gallery—where she became friends with bartender Howard Hesseman, later a well-known actor, and clothing deer Linda Gravenites who became her roommate. In San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury section, soon to become the center of hippie life, Joplin sang for beers and passed the hat, while working part-time jobs and collecting unemployment.

Like a of citizens of the emerging counterculture, she shoplifted for necessary and desirable items, an activity that got her arrested on February 2, By this time, alcohol and methamphetamine, or "speed," were setting the rhythm of her days.


In the summer ofJoplin found herself in New York City's Greenwich Village without really knowing how she got there. Living on the street and in Washington Square Park, she sang at Slugs and dabbled with everything from marijuana to cocaine, heroin, and speed, and began to deal speed and hashish. Record companies, meanwhile, began to send scouts to see her perform, but drugs ranked higher in her life than her career. In the fall, she returned to San Francisco, where she took a new lover.

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The following spring, Joplin committed herself to a hospital in an attempt to get off drugs, but failed to do so. Frightened by her addictions, she returned to Port Arthur, where she sought to conform to the town's expectations, telling her parents that she had come home to prepare to get married. She dressed conservatively, wore makeup, pulled her hair into a neat bun, took up typing and canasta and insisted on being treated like a lady. That summer, she reentered Lamar as a sociology major and saw a therapist. When friends encouraged her to sing at a benefit for a blues singer, she appeared in a business suit.

She was vocalizing again in clubs around southeast and central Texas when she heard of a tryout in California for Big Brother and the Holding Company, a band comprised of bass player Peter Albin, lead guitarist James Gurley, drummer Dave Getz, and guitarist Sam Andrew.

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The band's manager, her old friend Chet Helms, accompanied Janis to Port Arthur, promising the Joplins that their daughter would return to college in the fall semester if the tryout failed. The duo then hitched rides to San Francisco, becoming lovers along the way; Helms later proposed, but without success. Later in her life, she identified closely with the tragic lives of singers like Holiday, Bessie Smithand Odettaand with Zelda Fitzgerald.

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Although she had not ly performed their kind of "freak rock," Joplin became the singer for the Big Brother band. Six days after her acceptance, their first performance as a group was at the Avalon Ballroom where they were hired eventually as the house band. Melding into the group, Joplin began an affair with James Gurley, who temporarily left his wife Nancy to live with Janis; according to one.

In July, however, after the band moved out of the city into a house in Lagunitas, in the San Geronimo Valley, Nancy Gurley and Joplin became great friends, and Nancy guided Janis' choices in hippie fashion. The two women also began to share speed.

At a time when lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, was legally available and the hippie culture's drug of choice, Joplin's preferences remained speed and alcohol; she also experimented with DMT dimethyltryptamine.

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Joplin refused offers from other bands and even turned down a proposal from Elektra Records to go out on her own. In August, the band took a job in Chicago playing at Mother Blues, but did not draw a crowd large enough to cover their pay. Against the advice of their manager, they ed a contract for an album with Mainstream Records, believing they would get enough money to return to San Francisco. The group received so little in pay that they still had to scrounge money to get home, and the album was not released until a year later, when Big Brother had made a name for itself.

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With a gaggle of female friends, dubbed "The Capricorn Ladies," Joplin also liked to ramble down Haight Street, feeling at home, drinking Ripple or Rainer Ale, or taking in an improvisational review by The Committee. LSD ed her stash of pharmaceuticals.

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In April, she wrote her family that she would soon be the first pin-up for Haight-Ashbury; personality posters were a new fad, and Bob Seligmann had taken a photograph of her posing topless with a cape and strings of be. Originally scheduled for only one performance, the band did two, in order to be included in the film Monterey Pop.

In front of an estimated crowd of 72, Big Brother and Joplin managed to upstage more established acts like the Mamas and the Papas, Jefferson Airplane, and The Association, rising to the ranks of performers like Jimi Hendrix and the Who. Between the two gigs, the band ed with Albert Grossman, a professional manager from New York, who stipulated that his bands not use heroin.

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During the recording session, Joplin revealed herself to be a hard-working perfectionist, but her drug taking kept her dangerously on the edge. Once during this period, roommate Linda Gravenites had to revive her from an overdose of heroin.

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To David Dalton, once a reporter for Rolling Stone, Joplin would later state that she decided "to sell out" because she wanted "to be rich. In letters home and to those around her, Joplin began to brag about her growing wealth; she bought a Porsche and struggled with trying to differentiate between her dayself and her stage persona. Grossman, meanwhile, put together the Kozmic Blues, a band of professional musicians, not friends.

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The Kozmic Blues played in San Francisco, again to poor reviews, then traveled through Europe in April and May where they were received with raves. Joplin was named "a hot white soul sister" and "the wildest happening since Elvis" by the British press, but when the time came to return home, Gravenites chose to remain in England, ostensibly to embroider jackets for George Harrisonrather than witness Joplin's further disintegration from alcohol and heroin.

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The group traveled to Hollywood to record an album. But as Joplin and her performance deteriorated from the drugs, she began to spend most of her time with the roadies.

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