January 12th, 2018

I first encountered the music of Janis Joplin at band camp in August of 1969. I would turn 14 in the next month and enter Warren High School as a freshman.

Damn but I was fucking clueless.

I wouldn’t actually see Janis sing until two years later when I worked as an usher at the Colony Theater in Marietta, Ohio. I watched Woodstock more than a dozen times during the week that it ran there. The two performances that I remember most vividly were by Janis and the other tragic figure there: Jimi Hendrix.

I heard something in Janis’ music that I’d never heard before. Nick Coleman did too. In Janis Joplin: the singer who screamed a very American pain, for The Guardian, Coleman writes:

But what did we know of her really? Very little. I remember registering at the time (probably from advertising copy, poster art and LP sleeves) her vivid personal iconography: round, tinted specs, feather boas in her hair and a hungry grin that opened her face to the sky. I also think I acquired the knowledge that she was Texan, that she was a roustabout and that she had expired only recently, as part of the same hippy decimation that had disposed of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, all of them victims of excess of one kind or another. Had she lived, she would have been 75 this month.

I left this comment on Coleman’s piece:

I saved two posters from my youth and preserved them on archival mountings behind non-glare glass. One, an original movie poster from 2001: A Space Odyssey (I was an usher at the theater) and the other, a black and white of Janis singing, her head tilted back and the microphone held close to her lips.

Both hang in my office, but the latter gets the place of honor. This image is the first I hang—from my college dorm room to my corporate office—where ever I go. When I’m blocked or feeling down, I just look at Janis’ face and get over my pitiful self.

She will always have a piece of my heart

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