January 11 – Janis Joplin’s Best & Last

1/11/71: Janis Joplin – Pearl

The loss of Janis Joplin in October 1970, which occurred between the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, would eventually signal part of the symbolic end of 1960’s idealism. And sadly, from a musical standpoint, fans discovered she was possibly just getting started when her final studio album, Pearl, was posthumously released on this day 50 years ago.

The Best Songs From The Album “Pearl” By Janis Joplin | Society Of Rock

As a Gen Xer, I discovered her music the same ways most of my peers did. Me and Bobby McGee was probably one of the first songs of hers I heard, as it’s one of her more “radio friendly” tunes. But what got my attention as a sixteen-year-old were tracks like Piece of My Heart and Down on Me with their crashing drums, grungy guitars, and unbridled soul emanating from those vocals. Then I became enamored with the film clips of her performances at Monterey Pop and Woodstock – especially the former – and that was all I needed to confirm I was a fan. Unfortunately for me, I kind of stopped there. Her hits and the bits of her on film were plenty until I realized a few years later that there was more, as in, arguably her best.

Pearl is a strong album for a number of reasons, including a new, much tighter backing band known as the Full Tilt Boogie Band, whom she had performed with on stage a number of times before recording sessions began. It was widely known in the music world at the time that Big Brother & the Holding Co., as well as her next group, the Kozmic Blues Band, were holding her back in the studio. With the new group, and especially with Paul Rothchild as producer, a more polished (in a good way) sound was achieved. The best known songs, which are also the singles issued from the album (Me & Bobby McGee, Cry Baby, Get It While You Can, & Mercedes Benz) come alive even more in the context of this album, beginning with the first track, Move Over. Again, the new band and producer were just as crucial as the star on this one.

Janis with producer Paul Rothchild

What would’ve been, we’ll never know. What could’ve been? Maybe this album would’ve helped her overcome some of the self-doubt/esteem issues that plagued her as she neared her 30’s. Maybe Janis would’ve settled into a better place in life where she was comfortable in her own skin. Perhaps she would’ve let go of some of that pain with its roots back in Port Arthur. Supposedly her overdose came as a result of not realizing what she took that night was much more powerful than what she normally would’ve, and that she wasn’t even using as regularly at that point. Maybe her life would’ve changed due to the more mature musical direction she was just beginning to embark upon. Maybe too much damage had been done to her long-term health by then.

A bio authored by Janis’s sister, Laura Joplin

Musically, she left us with a smile. The a cappella Mercedes Benz, recorded during her final session just three days before her death, is a funny commentary on consumerism. Nothing in it or the rest of this fantastic album suggests the end was closing in. But the otherwise upbeat Buried Alive in the Blues, left as an instrumental because she died before the vocal was recorded, became an odd reminder that that’s exactly what was happening.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Move Over
  2. Cry Baby
  3. A Woman Left Lonely
  4. Half Moon
  5. Buried Alive in the Blues

Side Two:

  1. My Baby
  2. Me and Bobby McGee
  3. Mercedes Benz
  4. Trust Me
  5. Get It While You Can

-Stephen

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/janis-joplin-pearl/

https://www.allmusic.com/album/pearl-mw0000190564

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl_(Janis_Joplin_album)

8 thoughts on “January 11 – Janis Joplin’s Best & Last”

  1. While I m not much of a fan of hers- I will say i’ve heard countless versions of
    ” Me and Bobby McGee”- and she owns that song.. incredible. There is a fairly recent bio on her that I’ve been meaning to read…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We are left to wonder what would have happened. Producer
    Paul A. Rothchild was really helping her on this album. Teaching her how to actually sing more than shout. She realized she couldn’t go on forever like she did…Great album and yes those better musicians helped her sound so much…

    Stephen if you haven’t read it…I would suggest “On The Road with Janis Joplin” by her road manager John Byrne Cooke.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another hugely talented music artist lost to drug addiction so young – it truly is a tragedy.

    I don’t mean to judge here. Drugs were part of the rock & roll life and so easily and widely available to all these artists. Some made it, some didn’t – it’s just brutal!

    Liked by 1 person

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