Janis Joplin passed away 50 years ago today, but rather than a dour post that rehashes the details of her final hours, I’m taking a more celebratory slant just as a reminder to anyone who might need one what an amazing talent she was. She, along with Jimi and Jim, was the embodiment of a shooting star. She arrived on the scene with soulful bombast and maintained it, uncompromisingly, until the end.
It’s easy to forget, given the legends that have grown up around the late 60’s generation of artists, that festivals such as Monterey Pop and Woodstock were introductions to the greater listening public to folks like Janis, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and others. Janis was 24 years old at Monterey, insecure about her talent and herself in general, and without any formal musical training. Yet I can’t watch her performance there without chills. Neither can the audience, who were blown away. Mama Cass’s jaw dropped, probably with a knowing that the game was over for some of the mid-60’s class of pop entertainers, a few of whom were on that same stage during the festival. And Janis knew she’d nailed it when she skipped off the stage at the conclusion of her performance. She was the absolute real deal.