10 Things Only Hardcore Janis Joplin Fans Know
You can call her “The Queen of Psychedelic Soul” or simply “Pearl” but this girl from Port Arthur, Texas is the real deal. It may have been a short career but she has left us with incredible music to enjoy. If you’re a big Janis Joplin fan, this post will likely give you some major feels. If you’re not, nah, everyone who knows her comes to love her. Trust me on that.
1. You’ve Got To Know Her Favorite Drink
It’s no secret that Janis was quite a drinker throughout her entire career (some even say it all started in high school) and her favorite alcoholic beverage was Southern Comfort (which was originally called Cuffs and Buttons, by the way). She really loved that stuff. She used to be spotted carrying a bottle with her on stage on several occasions and also drank the same liquor during concerts. She even talked openly about drinking and the feeling of being inebriated. And one time, while out with Jim Morrison, she picked up a bottle of Southern Comfort and smashed it on Jim’s head. Instead of being turned off, on the contrary, he became more interested in her. Anyway, being the trendsetter that she is, this gave the liqueur sales a big boost. As a way of saying Thank You for the free publicity, the company sent her a full-length lynx coat.
2. She Went To College, But…
After graduating from high school, she attended college as a sociology major at the Lamar State College of Technology in Beaumont, Texas. However, she only spent one semester there. But man, she was one heck of a student. Still, she would occasionally travel to Austin and bring her guitar to perform solo. She eventually stopped going to class. Then, she attended Port Arthur College and took secretarial courses. She also went to the University of Texas in Austin to study art. The student newspaper, The Daily Texan, once published a piece about her on July 27, 1962. With the headline “She Dares To Be Different”, it said: “She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levis to class because they’re more comfortable, and carries her autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song, it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin.”
3. The Reason Janis Started Singing- Bessie Smith
The Empress of the Blues Bessie Smith was a huge influence to Janis. She once said that her decision to start a singing career was after her friend, Grant Lyons, let her borrow a Bessie Smith record. This was in high school, by the way, when Janis was too shy to sing in public. She listened to Bessie for hours and eventually started to imitate her amazing vocal style. Janis talked affectionately about Bessie saying: “She showed me the air, and taught me how to fill it. She’s the reason I started singing, really.” She even considered herself as Bessie Smith reincarnated. And after Bessie’s death, Janis learned about her unmarked grave and decided to offer her a tribute by buying a headstone with a touching message. It was erected on August 7, 1970. American singer-songwriter Dory Previn wrote a song about Janis and the tombstone with the title “Song for Bessie Smith”.
4. Just $8 To See Her At Woodstock ’69
You could’ve seen her live in Woodstock for less than 10 bucks. Yep, tickets back then only cost $8. Your last meal probably cost more than this. Man, I have never wanted to go back in time so badly. I would’ve braved the heavy traffic – doesn’t really matter as long as I get to see and hear Janis and of course, other legendary musicians as well. I wouldn’t mind the lack of souvenirs too. I mean, did you know there wasn’t much merchandise in Woodstock? If you go to music festivals today, you’ll get t-shirts, hoodies and other items bearing the logo of the event. Back then, however, concert-goers didn’t get any. Only the security and crew members were issued with windbreakers and t-shirts bearing the Woodstock logo. That eventually became an iconic souvenir. But then again, who needs any of those if you have lasting memories of the festival, right?
5. One Of Her LAST Recordings Was For A Beatle
One of Janis’ last recordings was a birthday greeting for John Lennon’s 30th birthday. Aside from Mercedes Benz, Janis also recorded the Dale Evans composition “Happy Trails” for John on October 1, 1970. She was contacted by John’s wife, Yoko Ono, requesting for the birthday greeting. John and Janis have met before but there’s not much documentation about it. The song was included in her 1993 boxed set and Yoko released it for the Lost Lennon tapes. Yoko was the one who insisted that they share the greeting with the world. John also said to Dick Cavett during one interview that he received the special one-minute taped recording after her passing. In a way, it spooked John and kind of bothered him especially because of some of the lyrics: “Happy trails to you, until we meet again. Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.” Listen to her achingly beautiful voice.
6. She Was Bullied In School
As a teenager, she used to be overweight and had pimple breakouts which is why Janis was often bullied in school, was unpopular and also became the subject of various cruel jokes. Some even said she suffered from body dysmorphia. Former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson used to mercilessly tease her when they attended high school together. In college, she was even voted “Ugliest Man on Campus” by the fraternities and that’s pretty much part of the reason she dropped out after only one semester in the university. That continued to bother her for the rest of her life. They picked on her because she was different from the rest of them. From bullying to social exclusion, her response was driving out to blues bars and dyeing her hair. During one of her interviews, she said: “They laughed me out of class, out of town, out of the state.” This is incredibly heart-wrenching.
7. She Could Kick Your Ass
Not only was she a devoted and passionate student in Kenpo Karate but she also earned a third-degree black belt (Sandan). Kenpo is a defense system that uses quick hand strikes to overwhelm and hit the opponent. Kicks are not often used because it may affect one’s balance during combat. A third-degree black belt is highly advanced and already an expert and may be a head instructor at that. So I guess, to say that she was extremely skilled at this martial art would be a bit of an understatement. She was dedicated and though I’m not sure if she was able to use this technique, I bet nobody dared to find out. At least, she didn’t try to perform these hand strikes to Jim Morrison and only smashed a bottle of Southern Comfort over his head. Well it seems, there’s absolutely nothing that she cannot do. Yes sir, this girl can kick ass!
8. Her Psychedelic Porsche Sold For $1.6 Million
In 1963, long before she owned a psychedelic 1964 Porsche 356C 1600 Cabriolet, she hitchhiked to San Francisco after dropping college to join a hippie movement. In 1968, Janis had enough money to buy the secondhand Porsche for $3500. She realized, however, that the Oyster White didn’t exactly reflect her personality. So she asked Dave Richards, one of her roadies, to add a psychedelic twist to it. Dave completed the kaleidoscopic paint job (a door to door mural) a month later and even called the car “The History of the Universe.” After her death, it was brought to the Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Porsche sold for $1.76 million at an auction in Sotheby’s last year even though they only expected it to sell somewhere between $400,000 and $600,000. Janis was very closely identified with the Porsche and fans often left notes for her in the windshield wipers.
9. She Knocked Out Jim Morrison, Cold
Paul Rothchild was working with both Janis and Jim Morrison and he decided to get them together at a Hidden Hills party. They got along pretty great at first and almost hit it off until Jim started getting rude and violent which disgusted Janis. However, Jim loved how Janis kept on rejecting him. After getting tired of The Doors frontman Jim’s drunken antics, Janis started to leave. When Jim wouldn’t take no for an answer and still staggered in pursuing her and even tried to grab her, she smashed a bottle of Southern Comfort over his head. After knocking him out cold, he said during their rehearsal the next day: “What a great woman! She’s terrific! Can I have her telephone number?” So apparently, the violence and physical confrontation turned him on. He seemed in love back then. Jim was heartbroken when he found out Janis has no interest in seeing him again.
10. Death Shocked Entire World- Ashes Scattered In Pacific Ocean
Her untimely death shocked fans all over the world. She was only 27 years old and she still had so much to offer to the world – her music, her passion. She only recently finished some recordings and nobody saw it coming. Even producer Paul Rothchild was waiting for her to do another recording session. That is, before they found her dead in her hotel room. After the tragic incident, she was cremated by the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Mortuary in Los Angeles, California. Few people attended the private funeral service, her parents and aunt were present. Her ashes were then scattered along the Stinson Beach, over the Pacific Ocean on October 13,1970. When her will was read later, she left $2500 allocated for the sole purpose of one last party for her loved ones. She called it, “A final gesture of appreciation and farewell.” Then on October 26, 200 people attended her wake.
Thank you for the beautiful music, Janis!