Janis Joplin

Joplin, Janis (jŏpˈlĭn) [key], 1943–70, American blues-rock singer, b. Port Arthur, Tex. After dropping out of college (1963) and singing folk rock in Texas clubs, she moved (1966) to San Francisco and became lead vocalist of the rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. The following year the group performed at the Monterey Pop Festival, where the raw intensity of Joplin's voice and stage presence astonished the audience. The band's first major album, Cheap Thrills (1968), which included her iconic performance of "Piece of My Heart," catapulted Joplin to stardom. She left Big Brother in 1968, putting together her own backup group, the Kozmic Blues Band, and scoring a success with a 1969 album. By this time, Joplin was almost as well known for her flamboyant swigging of Southern Comfort, rumored drug use, and unconventional lifestyle as for her gritty, fierce, and sexually charged vocals. She had nearly completed the album Pearl (her nickname) when she died of a heroin overdose. Released in 1971, the record contained such classics as "Mercedes Benz" and "Me and Bobby McGee," her only No. 1 hit. Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

See memoir by her sister, L. Joplin (1992); biographies by D. Dalton (1971), M. Friedman (rev. ed. 1992, repr. 1999), and A. Echols (1999).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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