Janis Joplin Essay

1297 words - 5 pages

Janis Joplin

One of the most colorful music legends of the 1960's was Janis Joplin. Blues legend Janis Lyn Joplin was born on January 19th 1943, the eldest child of parents Seth and Dorothy Joplin. Janis was born and raised in the small Southern petroleum industry town of Port Arthur, Texas. Her father was a canning factory worker, her mother a registrar at a local business college. Her non-aberrational upbringing coupled with the atmosphere of Port Arthur at the time; generally restrictive, intolerant, and unnurturing must've made even Janis' early childhood difficult. By all accounts, however, Janis seems to have been a "normal" and happy child, who fitted society's usual definition of "pretty". It was in Janis' adolescence that the hang-ups and hassles that were to affect the path of the rest of her life. In a sense, her rigid upbringing played a large part in making Janis who she was. This would never have been admitted at the time, but, predictably, the "Port Arthur" ethic created a fire inside Janis and kept it burning until her death. Janis' troubles began, when she was a teenager with her "good looks" gradually began to disintegrate, her soft blonde hair turned into an unruly brown mane. She also developed severe acne, which would scar her mentally as well as physically. Hence, Janis became something of a loner, as was named the ugly girl. She soon began avoiding mirrors, and her anxiety about her looks was made worse by the constant taunts by peers, who rejected her and often made fun of her. When Janis found that society had rejected her, she rejected it.

Janis grew up on classical music and country music back in Texas, discovered the blues in Louisiana. Janis was soon inspired to both learn and appreciate music, and its roots were her idols included Odettea, Leadbelly and Bessie Smith, who would have great influence on her subsequent musical career, especially her vocal style. By the time Janis graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1960, she had already decided she wanted to be a singer, and left home. At first, Janis found work in the country and western clubs of Texas, also singing folk songs for very little money. Her ultimate goal in doing this was to raise enough money for a bus fare to California. She played the folk circuit around Austin for a short while, and then left for San Francisco. In the summer of 1965, Janis returned home to Port Authur for a year to question her life direction. Drugged-up and burned-out, she attempted unsuccessfully to conform to a "straight" lifestyle. Then, a fed-up Janis headed back to Austin, where she had previously experienced such hostility, and stayed there for a further seven months before she was on the move again this time to San Francisco, where the next, and most important, chapter of her life was to begin.
By 1967, Janis had joined Big Brother and the Holding Company and hit the big time, or at least, had established a healthy following locally. Albert Grossman,...

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