NEW YORK, Jan. 3, 2013 — Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, commemorates the life and music of Janis Joplin on the occasion of the singer’s 70th birthday and celebrates the iconic electric blues singer as the label’s first Artist of the Month in January 2013.
Legacy’s Artist of the Month will provide fresh perspectives on musical legends whose sounds continue to effect people’s lives. Each month, the series will offer new fans and deep aficionados alike the opportunity to focus on an essential cornerstone catalog of pop music history.
Columbia/Legacy Recordings marked 2012 with the release of two essential new titles in the catalog of the quintessential blues-rock-country-soul singer: Janis Joplin - The Pearl Sessions , a two-disc set premiering newly discovered studio recordings produced by Paul Rothchild, was released in April, preceded by Big Brother and the Holding Company Featuring Janis Joplin - Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968 , an electrifying full-length concert recorded and produced for release by the legendary soundman Owsley (“Bear”) Stanley.
An historic expansion of Joplin’s final studio album, The Pearl Sessions provides fascinating new insight into Janis’ creative process through a range of rare and previously unreleased material.
The Pearl Sessions includes a new essay penned by Holly George-Warren, currently in the running for this year’s Best Album Notes Grammy Award. In her notes, George-Warren zeroes in on “A Woman Left Lonely,” one of the last songs recorded by Joplin, observing, “For Janis, though, the song’s sentiments seemed a fact of life. For us, an ultimate sacrifice that resulted in some of the best music of the 20th century: ’They asked me, ”How did you learn to sing the blues like that?“’ Janis said, a mere three months before her death. ’I just opened my mouth and that’s what I sounded like ... you can't make up something that you don't feel. You give up every constant in the world except music. That's the only thing in the world you got.'”
Born January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas, Janis Joplin possessed one of the most distinctive, influential and unconventionally beautiful voices in pop history. Pure honey sweet and soul-ravaged raw, her voice was full of power and longing and heartbreak and triumph. She sang a mixture of blues, soul, gospel, jazz, country and rock that transcended genres and connected to the core of the cosmos. Earthy yet not-of-this-world, Janis Joplin embodied the primordial “rock mama” paradigm and the blues have never sounded the same.
A self-described “misfit” in high school, she fell under the sway of Lead Belly, Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton in her teens, dabbling in folk music and painting. In 1963, she headed to San Francisco, where she met guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, her first link to the Haight-Ashbury underground music scene. By 1966, Janis had joined, and was ostensibly fronting, the psychedelic-rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. She was developing an extravagant persona, both on-stage and off, her passionate performances matched by an iconic sartorial splendor that’s become visually synonymous with the era. Janis and Big Brother’s increasingly high-profile shows earned them a devoted fan base and serious industry attention; they signed with Columbia Records and released their major-label debut in 1967. Joplin’s seismic presence, as evidenced by her shattering performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, was captured for posterity by filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker.
Big Brother’s “Piece of My Heart,” on 1968’s Cheap Thrills LP, shot to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100, the album sold a million copies in a month, and Joplin became a sensation – earning rapturous praise from Time and Vogue, appearing on The Dick Cavett Show and capturing the imagination of audiences that had never experienced such fiery intensity in a female rock singer. Her emergence as a solo star was inevitable; she put together her own outfit, the Kozmic Blues Band, and in 1969 released I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! which went gold. That year also saw her perform at the Woodstock festival.
Joplin assembled a new backup group, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, in 1970; she also joined a bill with the Grateful Dead, the Band and other artists for the “Festival Express” railroad tour through Canada. Her final studio album, the landmark Pearl , introduced signature material including Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and her own a cappella plaint, “Mercedes Benz,” while showcasing her mastery of virtually all pop genres. The latter song was, along with a phone-message birthday greeting for John Lennon, the last thing she recorded; she died in October of 1970, and Pearl was released posthumously the following year. The quadruple-platinum set became the top-selling release of Joplin’s career and, in 2003, was ranked #122 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
Janis Joplin’s recordings and filmed performances have secured her status as an enduring cultural con, inspiring countless imitators and musical devotees. Myriad hit collections, live anthologies and other repackaged releases have kept her legend alive, as have one-woman shows such as the hit Love, Janis (which Joplin’s sister, Laura, helped create) and 2009’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe “Best Solo Performance” nominee Janis. A documentary produced by Alex Gibney, Susan Lacy and Jeff Jampol, directed by Amy Berg (“West Of Memphis”) is now in production. One Night with Janis Joplin, a critically acclaimed currently touring production, has played to sold-out houses in Portland, Cleveland and Washington, DC, and has received nine Broadway World and two Cleveland Critic Circle Awards nominations.
In 1988, the Janis Joplin Memorial, featuring a bronze sculpture by artist Douglas Clark, was unveiled in Port Arthur.
Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and posthumously given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
Janis Joplin will be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013.