Janis Joplin: Sassy Lady With Epic Dress Sense (blues special)

Janis Joplin and the Pearl album

The legend that is Janis Joplin piqued our interest of late. Emerging in 1967 as a powerhouse psychedelic rock soul blues blues singer, she was a brilliant performer.

Add into that a fun personality and era-defining dress sense. The result? A legend who won’t ever go away, although it’s her troubled personality and early death that also make her memorable. Let’s take a closer look.

Janis Joplin’s Brief Reign of Glory

The above clip from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival launched Janis Joplin to superstardom. You can see Mama Cass of the Mamas and Papas in the audience, sitting there gobsmacked for most of the performance.

Jimi Hendrix and a pre-fame The Who were also at this festival and landed famous performances, but Joplin seemed to dominate the whole show.

Joplin seemed to turn up at every one of the most important ’60s festivals doing her thing, such as the legendary Woodstock 1969 do. Right here.

At the start of her career, she performed with Big Brother and the Holding Company. She really got on well with the guys in this band and it was a happy environment for Joplin, but the general belief in the press became she was better than the “amateur” musicians she was with.

This led Joplin to leave Big Brother and the Holding Company. And she had a poorly received period of session musicians she performed with, which resulted in her final album Pearl (1970). This was released posthumously in January 1971.

As you’d expect, it rocketed to #1 in the charts and remains her most famous album.

Looking back now, over 50 years after her early death, you see the hit single. Piece of My Heart and Cry Baby. And it’s the former you’ll hear on the radio all the time.

This is one of those things we consider now—the nature of fame. And how it was thrust on a vulnerable person like Joplin. Highly sensitive and clearly prone to self doubt.

She was very young and having a lot of fun in the ’60s. Interviews show a laidback and sardonic personality always ready with a cackling laugh. But she was also battling self-esteem issue problems, notably with her physical appearance.

Some of her interviews hint at this, as she appeared on the Dick Cavett show with a wild bunch of psychedelic hair attachments (and enormous glasses). Pretty epic, we feel, we might start going into work like this.

Joplin had seriously amazing dress sense and you can see this from pictures back in the late ’60s, but she did seem to hide her face behind that mass of hair.

Now, she was good looking. Which is a shame she didn’t realise that. But unconventional looks are so often maligned in society (particularly in the media) which you can see even now with Nicola Roberts from the UK pop band Girls Aloud. The very beautiful Roberts was hounded by the tabloid press as an 18-year-old, cursed as “ugly” as she’s a redhead.

Joplin was bullied during her educational years about her looks.

To cover off these issues as she got older, she drank to considerable excess (Southern Comfort being her alcohol of choice) and took a lot of drugs. Heroin being her worst vice.

Ultimately, that’s what killed her. After a day at the recoding studio, she retired to her hotel room and accidentally shot some very severe, uncut heroin into her body. That was October 4th, 1970, and she was dead at 27.

This did seem to rock the world. She even got a mention in the Midnight Express film (1978), where Billy Hayes expresses shock to his girlfriend over Joplin’s demise.

We don’t want to write too much here, as Joplin’s story has been covered extensively in books and online. We also feel like Amy Winehouse basically relived the entire thing all over again, also dying aged 27 in 2011.

But we do feel Joplin was an incredible performer. Total natural and one in a billion.

The thing that sticks with us is the story of when she met Jim Morrison for the first time. These two hedonistic characters hit it off big time. But then they decided to start drinking, which resulted in Joplin whacking Morrison around the head with a whiskey bottle.

All makes for great rock and roll tomfoolery, but you can see the self destructive nature at play in them right there.

Whilst Joplin is gone, all we can say about her is—awesome. Fantastic singer. Fantastic performer. That dress sense was in a different league. But we hope she can be a calling card to the unconventionally good looking folks out there about how you’re offering much more than you realise.


  1. That late-1960s psychedelia/hippie period was intriguing on so many levels, quite apart from the casualty rate among the musicians. I’ve always seen it as the direct generational reaction to early-mid century social conservatism. And we have to wonder where Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison etc would have gone musically, had they not met their untimely demise. Incidentally, Frank Zappa’s iconic ‘We’re Turning Again’ directly references Joplin’s death (they also had the same manager).

    Liked by 1 person

    • And then there’s the ones who someone survived it, with Ginger Baker and Keith Richards (against all the odds, still with us). It’s astonishing Keith Moon somehow made it to 1978, too.

      It is incredible though, that period from 1969-1971 where they were dropping like flies. One of the most dangerous jobs you could have.

      I am starting to work my way through Zappa’s work now, so it’s an intriguing time of it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree. She was such a talent. I recently watched a documentary about her. Very sad to see her struggle. In my opinion, her parents played a considerable role in making her feel unworthy of respect (and love for that matter).

    Cavett seems to have been one of her many lovers. In the documentary he said something like “I loved Janis. We were great friends and to be perfectly honest, we may or may not have been intimate. I’m too old to remember.” So, many men seem to have been infatuated with her but it wasn’t enough. I wish she’d found someone who was willing to commit. Maybe things would have been different.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that’s what piqued my interest. I watched a few documentaries on her, forgot to mention the issues she had growing up. Very troubled life, but it’s that infectious laugh of hers I find very endearing.

      Ultimately, it was just a particularly bad batch of heroin she got. Hell of a risk to take, but that’s youthful hedonism. Just a shame it had to end that way for her, she was a cool lady.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Too bad she didn’t stay with us for too long, but she left quite a legacy behind and some awesome tunes. Hope she’s doing well in that great gig in the sky. She must freak out the angels from time to time with her antics, but I am confident they love her singing.

    Liked by 1 person

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