Texan girl, blues queen and music pioneer: The iconic figure of the hippie and women’s liberation movement in the late 1960s was born on January 19, 1943.
In the rock ‘n roll firmament of the 1960s, Janis Joplin was a shooting star who burned white hot for five short years. 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.
During these years, she traveled from the conservative community of Port Arthur, Texas to the expansive and unpredictable world that was the drug/hippie/music scene of 1960s San Francisco — and mostly in the glare of national stardom.
Joplin was born in Port Arthur, an oil refinery town, in 1943. As a teenager in the late 1950s, she had read about Jack Kerouac and the Beatniks, began to dress in her own style, and started listening to blues music with a few high school friends. Black blues singers Bessie Smith and Leadbelly were among her heroes.
An outcast in Port Arthur by the early 1960s, Joplin had made her way to California a time or two, and eventually came to San Francisco’s music and hippie scene. At the June 1967 Monterey Pop Festival she captured national attention with a stunning blues performance of “Ball and Chain.” From that point on, she became something of national phenomenon. But not everyone loved Janis Joplin. Her stage antics and whiskey-swilling, devil-may-care style put many people off. Some were convinced she had a death wish and was killing herself slowly with each performance and each day’s excesses, so that when she sang “Piece of My Heart,” the meaning was for real.