Janis Joplin Born Again by Jeff Provine
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Janis Joplin described her early life
as that of a "Babylonian whore", quoting a line from a fellow graduate of
Thomas Jefferson High School interviewed during her ten-year high school
She had grown up the eldest of three in Port Arthur, TX, and had always
had a psychological demand for attention. Her mother once said, "She was
unhappy and unsatisfied without it. The normal rapport wasn't adequate".
During high school, she held a group of other outcasts as friends, but
overall felt that her schoolmates had "laughed me out of class, out of
town and out of the state".
While with her friends, she had been exposed to the records of blues
singers, which inspired her to become a singer. In college, she developed
a style after the blues as well as beat poets. Without completing her
degree, she left for San Francisco in 1963. Her career began, but so did
her life-long struggle with drug use and drinking, even to the point of
heroine. In 1965, her friends from Texas, worrying about her health,
persuaded her to return and even threw a party to pay for her bus fare.
Once in Texas, she regained her footing, returned to school, and drove to
Austin to perform with her guitar and singing. While in Austin, her career
exploded when she joined Big Brother and the Holding Community.
"This is an interesting take on things, to put it
mildly. I'm not too familiar with Joplin's career (she was a tad before my
time) but having her go Christian would have made sense given her
background, and someone like that would have been likely to see through
PTL, and probably a lot of the other televangelists. Having a well-known
star going public, asking people _not_ to give to TV preachers but "get
involved in your local church; they need the money!" might have been a
Real Good Thing." - reader's commentCredited as "the most powerful
singer to emerge from the white rock movement" in Time and "the most
staggering leading woman in rock" in Vogue, she stormed the scene. She
sang with numerous bands, changing over the next four years and developing
her style with each. Over the next four years, her name would become
famous across the US as well as internationally. Her drug use, however,
also returned. She struggled against it, vowing with bandmate Dave Getz to
keep needle-use out of their apartment (a vow broken), but the addiction
surrounded and finally seized her.
On October 4, 1970, Joplin was discovered with a severe overdose in the
Landmark Motor Motel by a delivery man with a wrong address. Rushed to the
hospital, she survived but had to progress through weeks of recovery.
During this time, she underwent something of a spiritual revolution,
believing that "Jesus sent that delivery man". That Christmas, she would
return to Texas and rejoin the Church of Christ she had attended as a
child with her family.
Joplin became as fed up with organized Christianity as she had before and
soon stepped into what became the "Rock Christian" movement. Casting aside
the darker themes of rock, the "Jesus hippies" embraced psychedelic art,
powerful emotions, and beneficial anarchy. She would meet with other
leaders of the Christian movement, applauding some and voicing disgust at
others. Most famously, she gave a concert with evangelist Billy Graham in
1973. Most notoriously, she launched into a feud with Jim and Tammy Faye
Bakker, referring to the Praise The Lord Club as a "nest of vipers". When
scandal broke in 1987, Joplin refused to allow her fans to celebrate,
saying that there is no glory in the fall of PTL since "it shouldn't have
ever existed in the first place".
Joplin's position in ministry is often called into question with many
members of the Christian Right praising her devotion and good work while
others say that she is two steps down from the Devil himself, possibly
even an anti-christ. Opponents routinely bring up her history of drug
abuse, a topic from which she never shies and uses as grounds for further
says in reality Janis Joplin died October 4 from an overdose of heroine
complicated with alcohol. She was discovered by John Cooke, Full Tilt
Boogie's road manager, after not appearing to a scheduled recording session
at Sunset Sound Studios. Her ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean, but
her legacy lived on as one of the greatest female artists of the twentieth
century. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
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Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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