The Rise of Janis Joplin

Often regarded as one of the major ground breakers for women in Rock N’ Roll music, Janis Joplin can be additionally remembered for flipping the table on what it meant to be a rock vocalist. Her rise into stardom was far from painless and her fall occurred tragic and far too soon. The journey she took can be interpreted in several ways, but through my eyes, I find her to be an astonishing inspiration whose music has gone on to be celebrated around the world.

Joplin was born on January 19, 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas, a place then known only for its oil industries. She began singing in the church at a young age and developed an immense passion for music. Despite all this, Joplin is said to have felt confined by the small community and misplaced among her peers. This angst is what led to her early discovery and taste for thoughtful folk music and emotional blues.

At age 17, Joplin ran away from home to Austin, Texas, where she began to sing in clubs in hopes of saving enough money to finance a trip to California. By 1965, Joplin was singing in Folk and Blues bars in San Francisco. Eventually, her friend, Chet Helms (often deemed Father of San Francisco throughout the Summer of Love) informed Joplin about a great new band, Big Brother and the Holding Company whom were in the search for a singer. Joplin joined the band.

Her next major move to becoming Rock N’ Rolls, Blues-mama, was Big Band and the Holding Company’s performance at the 1967  Monterey Pop Festival. Festival organizer did not expect much from the recently formed group and schedule their set for an afternoon performance. Joplin’s soul awakening vocals electrified the crowd to the point where organizers asked the band to play a second set later that night during the filming for their concert documentary.

Joplin was 24 years old during the Monterey Pop Festival performance. One of the most famous musicians at the festival, Mama Cass Elliott of the Mamas & the Papas, was caught on film with mouth open, jaw on the floor, mouthing “Wow! That’s really heavy!” After this day Big Band and the Holding Company were signed to Columbia Records and Janis Joplin began to be a household name.

A year later in 1978 the band produced one of Joplin’s most famous songs, “Piece of My Heart” from their album Cheap Thrills which became a certified gold number 1 album. Soon after, Joplin outgrew Big Brother and moved on to form the Kozmic Blues Band. Joplin continuously toured during this time, producing successful music, and making television appearances but soon became increasingly more involved with alcohol and drugs.

On October 4, 1970, not even four years after her ground breaking performance at Monterey Pop, Janis Joplin was declared dead of an accidental drug overdose. Her final album Pearl was released in 1971 and yielded her a number 1 hit with “Me and Bobby McGee.” Gone at the age of 27, with only four fulfilled years in her professional career, Janis Joplin’s impact on Rock N’ Roll music is astounding. Painted as an outcaste by many, I feel that Janis Joplin’s growing popularity over the last fifty years has demolished these labels and marked her as one of the most popular musicians in Rock N’ Roll music history.

–Victoria Shaffer



 Coney, Brian, et al. “How Janis Joplin and Otis Redding Conquered Monterey Pop Festival.” Consequence of Sound, 18 June 2017,
“Janis Joplin Biography.” Rolling Stone,
“Janis Joplin.”, A&E Networks Television, 28 Apr. 2017,

20 thoughts on “The Rise of Janis Joplin

  1. Janis Joplin is an original. She blended so many influences into her powerful voice. I saw her several times on The Dick Cavett Show and when she had finished singing, she was usually too out of breath to talk with him. We saw a tribute show to her two years ago and it was fabulous with the singer staying in character throughout. My older brother turned me onto Pearl when it came out. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

      1. She is not, but this singer poured herself into every song. What is interesting is the four African-American back-up singers also imitated artists that the Joplin character said influenced her – Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and one other, whom I forget. I was also tickled that her mother would put on Broadway musical albums when they all cleaned the house on Saturday. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the greatest, for sure. And one of many members of the 27 Club. I still listen to her music. You can recognize her voice at the first note.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Janis Joplin was an amazing artist. Her intensity was through the roof. There simply was and still is no other vocalist like her.

    Unfortunately, she became another casualty to drugs like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and so many other great artists of the ’60s and ’70s. And even those who made it through and eventually became sober oftentimes paid the ultimate price decades later.

    Just look at who we’ve lost so far this year: Gregg Allman, Walter Becker and Tom Petty, to name some. It’s a true tragedy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s one of the most unfortunate and tragic deaths. An immense amount of potential that several could not fully meet because of their early deaths. It’s an interesting connections so many of these 50’s/60’s/70’s rock musicians have. Thank you for your insightful input!


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