HAPPY BIRTHDAY JANIS JOPLIN – PEARL’S ROLE IN MY LIFE

13 Jan

Janis Lyn Joplin would have been seventy years of age on January 19th 2013.

Much has been written about the tragic circumstances that culminated in her untimely death on October 4th 1970, resulting in her becoming an unfortunate member of the ’27 club’.

I have to admit I was slow to pick up on the marvel that was Joplin.  Janis never achieved the height of fame in the UK that she did in her homeland.  Of course she was famous, an icon and a legend, but you never heard Janis being played on the radio when I was growing up.  Subsequently her music was not something I was overly acquainted with. 

Then when my partner entered my life, she brought Janis with her.  Dawn was devoted to Janis and had been an ardent fan since the age of twelve, she already possessed a large collection of Janis vinyl and memorabilia.

It wasn’t really the music that first captivated me, no it, was Janis herself.  I have never really been a particularly big fan of the blues, or blues rock.  But this woman was something else, she had a stage presence that burst through the screen, how could this woman be dead?  She seemed more alive than any old footage of the Beatles or the Stones.

Janis was an original, there had never been anybody like her before, sure her music was derivative and she drew heavily from her musical influences Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith etc.  Janis though was unique, a bluesy white Texas woman, not particularly beautiful, but she had that one attribute that can never be fashioned or created.  Janis had charisma and she had it in spades, the throaty laugh, the wild hair, the way she stood on the stage and positively took the music by the neck and consumed it.  No there had never been anybody like Janis and I actually don’t think there ever will be.  Janis was a wonderful wild pioneer.

So, during my years of travelling with Dawn I got to visit many of the places important in Janis’s life.  Port Arthur, Texas the place of her birth and the startlingly quaint museum they have in her honour. 

Barney’s Beanery in Hollywood, the wonderful diner that used to be her favourite hang-out and actually turned out to be the last place Janis dined on this plane.

Ashbury Heights of course in San Francisco, where she really broke through and her musical star shone so brightly.

Most poignantly and dramatically, we stayed at the Highland Gardens Hotel (formerly known as the Landmark) and we located the room that Janis had actually died in.  The numbers have been changed on the rooms, but somebody in the know helped us locate the correct room. 

Now I know what you are all thinking, what an incredibly ghoulish thing to do, which of course it was.  But for a fan, it was irresistible, when we stayed, the décor was exactly the same as that fateful night.  The cigarette machine in the lobby, where Janis had bought her last packet of smokes was still there.  The hotel was redolent with her presence, I half expected Janis to be in the room when I woke up.

Unfortunately, I learnt the hard way that some places and events are probably best left be.  I contracted extreme and violent food poisoning from a rather upmarket establishment in Santa Monica, which left me extremely ill.  I couldn’t leave the room for five days, had to have a doctors hotel visit and eventually cancel my flight back to the UK.

For a couple of days, I thought I would actually be exiting this planet in the same confined space that the mighty Janis had done, on tragic Fall day in 1970.  The irony was certainly not lost on me, as I lay on the bathroom floor, the same floor Janis had lay on and watched the room spinning on its very axis, a wry smile made its way to my lips, perhaps Janis was teaching me a big lesson from that great Woodstock in the sky, focus on the music, the life, the wonder and forget the negative.

How Janis died, or how she lived, is the small part of the story.  Joplin was the most amazing, dazzling artist and for the short time she was here she burned brighter than anyone else in her orbit.

We attended an art show in Las Vegas given by Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, one of Joplin’s closest friends.  We were honoured to get to talk to her for about half an hour about her friend.  Grace spoke about a wonderful human being, who was shy and loved life.  I will always remember Grace telling us “Janis was my friend, not a day goes by that I don’t think about her, or miss her”

Janis Joplin, icon, trailblazer, hellraiser, star, legend, friend. 

Happy 70th birthday Janis, you would have made a wonderful old lady!  I shall have a rather large Southern Comfort in your honour, and I may just swig it straight from the bottle!

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2 Responses to “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JANIS JOPLIN – PEARL’S ROLE IN MY LIFE”

  1. Jamie January 19, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    Happy Birthday to the wonderful Janis Lyn Joplin !!!! I believe she would be still Singing sipping some Southern Comfort from the bottle, Cheers to you JJ…..

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