Fire is a curious thing. The brighter it burns, the faster it burns out. In many ways, humans are like fire: we consume, we emit light, and we fizzle out. And what flame in this world was brighter and more untamed than that of Janis Joplin?
Born in 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas, Joplin never seemed to fit in, befriending likewise socially shunned teens who introduced her to the beauty of black music, blues in particular. This did nothing to her social standing in school, as classmates would deride and point out her anti-racist approach. It was at this time that she started singing and playing music.
Soon after graduating from high school, Joplin left Texas to pursue a musical career in San Francisco but found herself drowning in alcohol and drugs. Her friends in California were so worried about her health that they paid for her trip back to Port Arthur, and she was so rattled by the experience that she told her shrink she’s afraid that she will not be able to do music without relapsing, and that she’s even more afraid that if she doesn’t do music, she’ll become a secretary. That fear set the tragic trajectory of her life which ended on a tragic day in October 1970 after a lethal drug overdose at the age of 27.
With her raspy, powerful vocals, Joplin wasn’t just the best at the time, she became the single most important female vocalist in rock history, inspiring hundreds of women in various different genres, from R&B, to hard rock and pop.