With her raw, anguished voice, Joplin – who would have been 75 this month – was a hippy icon. But on Piece of My Heart she became something darker still
By Nick Colemantheguardian.com
When did pop first show that it had the capacity to feel bad? Not bad in the sense of feeling blue or worried or cross or cray-zee, or bothered by intimations of existential dread, but bad in the sense of feeling disturbed. That pop, rock, soul or whatever had the potential to take both hands off the banisters and let itself fall backwards without thought into abysmal, chaotic feeling. When did rock first show signs that it had the power to express what we might now call, for want of a better expression, pathology?
My first encounter with extreme feeling in pop music came a couple of years before I was capable of registering any kind of extreme feeling myself. In 1971, Janis Joplin was the sound of approaching anguish for my generation of 11-year-olds. Her sandpaper howls were for us, I suppose, what we thought of when we thought of the existential scream of nature, as we often did: an auditory update of Edvard Munch for the post-hippy generation. When she let rip, the world formed its mouth into an O and put its hands up to the sides of its face.
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.
These events had qualified as real news at the time and had been reported in newspapers and on broadcast media, up to a point. But the reports were not followed up, as far as I was aware, with extended media inquests or compassionate reflection in wider society. It was just news. It was what had happened. I certainly did not tut moralistically over it, but at the same time I was not entirely sure, at the age of 11, about how to think about such things. I felt nervous about them. I didn’t know what heroin was, and I hoped I never had to take it….
Continued via… Source: Janis Joplin: the singer who screamed a very American pain | Music | The Guardian