In the Rock ‘n Roll firmament of the 1960s, Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was a shooting star who burned white hot for five short years. She died of a heroin overdose at age 27. Joplin sang her own brand of the blues in an incendiary style. Yet in her short time — between 1966 and 1970 — she carved out a piece of music history that was distinctly her own.
Developing a love for music at an early age, Joplin sang in her church choir as a child and showed some promise as a performer. She was an only child until the age of 6, when her sister, Laura, was born. Four years later, her brother, Michael, arrived. Joplin was a good student and fairly popular until around the age of 14, when some side effects of puberty started to kick in. She got acne and gained some weight.
At Thomas Jefferson High School, Joplin began to rebel. She eschewed the popular girls’ fashions of the late 1950s, often choosing to wear men’s shirts and tights, or short skirts. Joplin, who liked to stand out from the crowd, became the target of some teasing as well as a popular subject in the school’s rumor mill. She was called a “pig” by some, while others said that she was sexually promiscuous.
Joplin eventually developed a group of guy friends who shared her interest in music and the Beat Generation, which rejected the standard norms and emphasized creative expression (Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were two of the Beat movement’s leading figures).