Saturday, October 31, 2015

Spirits in the Sky - Janis Joplin, Charter Member of the 27 Club!


From the Gulf Coast of Texas to the San Francisco Underground, Janis Joplin was the Queen of Blues when the Blues came from the Heart and Soul and Life or Death hung in the balance.  It has been forty-five years since Janis died, at just 27 years old, when the world was just beginning to sit up and take notice.  The following is her biography from A&E Network.

Bio. - A&E Network

Janis Joplin Biography

Singer (1943–1970)

Singer Janis Joplin rose to fame in the late 1960s and was known for her powerful, blues-inspired vocals. She died of an accidental drug overdose in 1970.


Born on January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas, Janis Joplin developed a love of music at an early age, but her career didn't take off until she joined the band Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1966. Their 1968 album, Cheap Thrills, was a huge hit. However, friction between Joplin and the band prompted her to part ways with Big Brother soon after. Known for her powerful, blues-inspired vocals, Joplin released her first solo effort, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, in 1969. The album received mixed reviews, but her second project, Pearl (1971), released after Joplin's death, was a huge success. The singer died of an accidental overdose on October 4, 1970, at age 27.

Wild Child

Janis Lyn Joplin was born on January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas. Breaking new ground for women in rock music, Joplin rose to fame in the late 1960s and became known for her powerful, blues-inspired vocals. She grew up in a small Texas town known for its connections to the oil industry with a skyline and dotted with oil tanks and refineries. For years, Joplin struggled to escape from this confining community, and spent even longer to trying to overcome her memories of her difficult years there.

Developing a love for music at an early age, Joplin sang in her church choir as a child and showed some promise as a performer. She was an only child until the age of 6, when her sister, Laura, was born. Four years later, her brother, Michael, arrived. Joplin was a good student and fairly popular until around the age of 14, when some side effects of puberty started to kick in. She got acne and gained some weight.

At Thomas Jefferson High School, Joplin began to rebel. She eschewed the popular girls' fashions of the late 1950s, often choosing to wear men's shirts and tights, or short skirts. Joplin, who liked to stand out from the crowd, became the target of some teasing as well as a popular subject in the school's rumor mill. She was called a "pig" by some, while others said that she was sexually promiscuous.

Joplin eventually developed a group of guy friends who shared her interest in music and the Beat Generation, which rejected the standard norms and emphasized creative expression (Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were two of the Beat movement's leading figures).

Early Musical Interests

Musically, Janis Joplin and her friends gravitated toward blues and jazz, admiring such artists as Lead Belly. Joplin was also inspired by legendary blues vocalists Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Odetta, an early leading figure in the folk music movement. The group frequented local working-class bars in the nearby town of Vinton, Louisiana. By her senior year of high school, Joplin had developed a reputation as a ballsy, tough-talking girl who like to drink and be outrageous.

After graduating from high school, Joplin enrolled at Lamar State College of Technology in the neighboring town of Beaumont, Texas. There, she devoted more time to hanging out and drinking with friends than to her studies. At the end of her first semester at Lamar, Joplin left the school. She went on to attend Port Arthur College, where she took some secretarial courses, before moving to Los Angeles in the summer of 1961. This first effort to break away from wasn't a success, however, and Joplin thus returned to Port Arthur for a time.

In the summer of 1962, Joplin fled to the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied art. In Austin, Joplin began performing at folksings—casual musical gatherings where anyone can perform—on campus and at Threadgill's, a gas station turned bar, with the Waller Creek Boys, a musical trio with whom she was friends. With her forceful, gutsy singing style, Joplin amazed many audience members. She was unlike any other white female vocalist at the time (folk icons like Joan Baez and Judy Collins were known for their gentle sound).

In January 1963, Joplin ditched school to check out the emerging music scene in San Francisco with friend Chet Helms. But this stint out west, like her first, proved to be unsuccessful, as Joplin struggled to make it as a singer in the Bay Area. She played some gigs, including a side-stage performance at the 1963 Monterey Folk Festival—but her career didn't gain much traction. Joplin then spent some time in New York City, where she hoped to have better luck getting her career off the ground, but her drinking and drug use (she'd begun regularly using speed, or amphetamine, among other drugs) there proved to be detrimental to her musical aspirations. In 1965, she left San Francisco and returned home in an effort to get herself together again.

Back in Texas, Joplin took a break from her music and her hard-partying lifestyle, and dressed conservatively, putting her long, often messy hair into a bun and doing everything else she could to appear straight-laced. But the conventional life was not for her, and her desire to pursue her musical dreams wouldn't remain submerged for long.

Joplin slowly returned to performing, and in May 1966, was recruited by friend Travis Rivers to audition for a new psychedelic rock band based in San Francisco, Big Brother and the Holding Company. At the time, the group was managed by another longtime friend of Joplin's, Chet Helms. Big Brother, whose members included James Gurley, Dave Getz, Peter Albin and Sam Andrew, was part of the burgeoning San Francisco music scene of the late 1960s; among the other bands involved in this scene were the Grateful Dead.

Big Brother

Joplin blew the band away during her audition, and was quickly offered membership into the group. In her early days with Big Brother, she sang only a few songs and played the tambourine in the background. But it wasn't long before Joplin assumed a bigger role in the band, as Big Brother developed quite a following in the Bay Area. Their appearance at the now legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967—specifically their version of "Ball and Chain" (originally made famous by R&B legend Big Mama Thornton) brought the group further acclaim. Most of the praise, however, focused on Joplin's incredible vocals. Fueled by heroin, amphetamines and the bourbon she drank straight from the bottle during gigs, Joplin's unrestrained sexual style and raw, gutsy sound mesmerized audiences—and all of this attention caused some tension between Joplin and her bandmates.

After hearing Joplin at Monterey, Columbia Records President Clive Davis wanted to sign the band. Albert Grossman, who already managed Bob Dylan, the Band, and Peter, Paul & Mary, later signed on as the band's manager, and was able to get them out of another record deal they'd signed earlier with Mainstream Records.

While their recordings for Mainstream never found much of an audience, Big Brother's first album for Columbia, Cheap Thrills (1968), was a huge hit. While the album was wildly successful—quickly becoming a certified gold record with songs like "Piece of My Heart" and "Summertime"—creating it had been a challenging process, causing even more problems between Joplin and band's other members. (The album was produced by John Simon, who'd had the band do take after take in an attempt to create a technically perfect sound.)

Cheap Thrills helped solidify Joplin's reputation as a unique, dynamic, bluesy rock singer. Despite Big Brother's continued success, Joplin was becoming frustrated with group, feeling that she was being held back professionally.

Solo Career

Joplin struggled with her decision to leave Big Brother, as her bandmates had been like a family to her, but she eventually decided to part ways with the group. She played with Big Brother for the last time in December 1968.

Following a historic performance at Woodstock (August 1969), Joplin released her first solo effort, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, in September 1969, with Kozmic Blues Band. Some of the project's most memorable songs were "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" and "To Love Somebody," a cover of a Bee Gees tune. But Kozmic Blues received mixed reviews, with some media outlets criticizing Joplin personally. Feeling uniquely pressured to prove herself as a female solo artist in a male-dominated industry, the criticism caused distress for Joplin. "That was a pretty heavy time for me," she later said in an interview with Howard Smith of The Village Voice. "It was really important, you know, whether people were going to accept me or not." (Joplin's interview with Smith was her last; it took place on September 30, 1970, just four days before her death.) Outside of music, Joplin appeared to be struggling with alcohol and drugs, including an addiction to heroin.

Joplin's next album would be her most successful, but, tragically, also her last. She recorded Pearl with the Full Tilt Boogie Band and wrote two of its songs, the powerful, rocking "Move Over" and "Mercedes Benz," a gospel-styled send-up of consumerism.

Tragic Death and Legacy

Following a long struggle with substance abuse, Joplin died from an accidental heroin overdose on October 4, 1970, at a hotel in Hollywood's Landmark Hotel. Completed by Joplin's producer, Pearl was released in 1971 and quickly became a hit. The single "Me and Bobby McGee," written by Kris Kristofferson, a former love of Joplin's, reached the top of the charts.

Despite her untimely death, Janis Joplin's songs continue to attract new fans and inspire performers. Numerous collections of her songs have been released over the years, including In Concert (1971) and Box of Pearls (1999). In recognition of her significant accomplishments, Joplin was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and honored with a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards in 2005.

Dubbed the "first lady of rock 'n' roll," Joplin has been the subject of several books and documentaries, including Love, Janis (1992), written by sister Laura Joplin. That book was adapted into a play of the same title. Amy Berg’s documentary, Janis: Little Girl Blue, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2015.

Spirits in the Sky - Death - Such a Final Notion - But what if people hadn't died?

The mind is a marvelous thing of somewhat magical qualities because it has the ability to reject any principle like the laws of nature or laws of god and imagine a world without those laws.

You should try it some time.

For example, take the principle of death, what if death could be undone for people.  Then take some of the people who died way to early in life and just imagine what they could have done with a "normal" life span compared to what they did in a tragically shortened life.

Like Jesus for example.  Now JC turned everything in the world upside down for all time and he died at age 33 after preaching just 3 short years.  What if he stuck around preaching until he was 70 which is not all that old anymore?  Then he would have had 37 more years of preaching and imagine what impact that might have had on things.

There might never have been any question of him being the true Messiah and all those various sects and denominations of Christianity might never have existed, sects which led us into 2000 years of warfare, hatred and willingness to ignore the Ten Commandments although Jesus never said there were Ten, just one and then a second.

Singers and composers seem to be targets for early death.  Buddy Holly died at just 22, Hank Williams at 29, Patsy Cline - Jim Croce - Momma Cass Elliot all at 30, Karen Carpenter at 32,  Bob Marley at 36, Harry Chapin at 38, John Lennon at 40 and Elvis at 42.

Holly, Williams, Croce, Marley, Chapin and Lennon were among the greatest song writers of all time and were not even close to reaching their peak in terms of creative output.

Consider the enormous body of work all these gifted artists, singers and songwriters all, generated in their abbreviated lifetimes.  All of them should have lived 28-48 years longer if they lived a normal life meaning we lost out on more than 50% of their potential musical contributions to our history.

Then there is the strange 27 Club, those artists who died at the age of 27, and this includes a host of singers pushing the envelope like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain and the most recent addition Amy Winehouse.

How bizarre is that?  Not a single one died of anything remotely connected to "normal" circumstances.  Some people even speculate they might have subconsciously or even consciously died when they reached that age.  Drugs, booze and prescription drugs all played a role in the deaths.

Let's change fields of entertainment and take movies for example.  James Dean died at 24, when he was just getting started while Marilyn Monroe died at 36, at the peak of her popularity and Natalie Wood died at 43.  Even though Natalie spent her entire life in movies she was just reaching new fans and rebuilding her image.

So how did they die?  A car wreck, drug overdose and drowning, again no natural causes and we were all cheated out of an entire body of work.

Of course in politics there was Bobby Kennedy at 43 and John Kennedy at 46 who along with their friend Martin Luther King, Jr. at 39 all were taken at the beginning of their contributions to America.

And let us never forget the enchanting fairy tale story line of Diana, Princess of Wales, dead at age 36, because of her contributions to the future of royalty in terms of personality and legacy.

Is there a lesson?  Make sure when you are planning your life the way the insurance and finance companies want you to you take the time to enjoy the present as if it were the last days of your life because it just might be.

Actuarial tables suck!

Tim Burton and Danny Elfman - Live from Lincoln Center - Directed by Andrew Carl Wilk


Do you know there are few things in this world that could take my attention away from the third game of the World Series, since the Mets were trailing the Kansas City Royals 0-2 in games.

Something just called me away from that sports channel in the strangest of ways.  

Now I sit here the night before Halloween with my globes glued to the telly watching my old friend Andrew Carl Wilk, directing Live from Lincoln Center.

Try as I might, I could not get myself to go back to the game.

The subject of the broadcast was Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, the soundtrack composer for most of Burton's greatest, and or more bizarre, movies.

It was a brilliant mosaic, from a variety of perspectives weaving the story behind the music behind the movie from the quite unusual mind of Tim Burton.

Few people could direct such a demanding show where movie clips cut to a live orchestra and chorus, with a never-ending barrage of interchanging elements.

Anyway, you get the idea.

This was a bona fide horror classic, which could overtake the legendary cult classic the Rocky Horror Picture Show, as an institutional must see for the institutionalized.


At least the dress code for the two productions seems similar.  Maybe next year the crazy crowd can come up and sing in front of the giant screen.

As usual, Andrew Carl Wilk, the Wizard of Lincoln Center, cast a magical spell over the viewers with his clever cuts and directing hijinks.

The show was a dazzling string of highlights.

The sequence with the violin soloist in leather was a particularly enchanting segment, probably my favorite part of the show.

When Danny Elfman began singing live, one forgets he used to be in a band, the challenge to Andrew of synchronizing the live singer, orchestra, and choir with the animated clip from the movie was daunting.

Yet somehow, Wilk, the superstar from the Summit, New Jersey that is, was able to give the song "What's this?" a seamless presentation.

As for rating the performance, they simply do not have enough stars to adequately rate this production.

Andrew and wife Heather

It is off the charts.

Therefore, Andrew, you ruined my lifelong record of watching the World Series without interruption, especially with such great teams involved.

When your Wizard's spell forced me to switch from the game, with the Mets trailing by one run, to PBS of all places, I was shocked.

Two hours later when you finally released me from the spell and I turned the game back on, the Mets were leading by six runs.

It seems to me if I had a bunch of your Live at Lincoln Center DVDs, and the Mets were losing a game, I could throw your show on and help the Mets win the World Series.

Bravo Andrew, and buy a bigger trophy cabinet, I sense yet another Emmy and your cabinet long ago ran out of room.