Janis Joplin There Was No-One Like Her


Janis Joplin There Was No-One Like Her

It’s 50 years since Janis Joplin died of an overdose in Los Angeles aged only 27. Her sad death is the one main fact many people know about her – but for true fans she remains the best female rock singer there’s been.

For half a century, interest in Joplin has barely diminished. In fact the list of biographies has been growing with the anniversary of her accidental death on 4 October, 1970 at the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood. Jimi Hendrix had died only two weeks earlier.

Books about Joplin generally list her earliest musical influence as Bessie Smith – the powerful African American blues singer who died in Mississippi six years before Joplin was born into a middle-class family in Texas.

Her biographer Alice Echols agrees but thinks there are other important influences too.


“You might say that musically Janis had very big ears – by which I mean she admired a whole spread of folk and blues performers such as Lead Belly and Odetta and Big Mama Thornton. And certainly at times she regarded herself almost as Bessie Smith reincarnated.

“Interviewing people for my book I realised she’d actually been quite a serious student of music. But she was never open about that in public because the image was always wild and raunchy rock-chick.”

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Echols says as a singer Joplin had extraordinary talent. “There was no-one like her then and maybe still isn’t. But the key thing about Janis, and other performers of the time, such as Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, is that they were in revolt against a system.

“They’d seen their parents living a risk-averse lifestyle and Janis was desperate to avoid a life which would be diminished in the way theirs had been.

Janis Joplin There Was No-One Like Her


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