was born January 19, 1943
, and died October 4, 1970
. Her short lifetime had her jumping between success and despair, addiction and recovery
. The strength
, and powerful emotions
that come through in her singing reveal many of the chapters of her tumultuous
Janis was born and raised in Port Arthur, Texas. Even at a young age, her fierce determination and independence was apparent. She gravitated towards the arts and literature, painting, and particularly music - folk, jazz, and the blues. She began to copy the styles of Bessie Smith, Odetta and Leadbelly.
She began to sing in coffeehouses in small towns in Texas, then moved on to beatnik locales in the Village and Venice. She was enrolled as a student at the University of Texas and became involved with drugs and alcohol around this time, particularly speed.
Janis went home for a year to try and clean up her act. An old friend, Chet Helms, called her to San Francisco, after landing her a position as the 'chick singer' of "Big Brother and the Holding Company".
The band made the big time in 1967 (the Summer of Love), when they played The Monterey International Pop Festival. Janis was suddenly noticed when she performed Big Mama Thornton's Ball and Chain. The band signed with Columbia and released the album "Cheap Thrills", releasing the singles Piece of my Heart and Summertime. Janis began to be the highlight of the show, and the group played its last gig in 1968.
Janis formed a new group and released "I Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues Again, Mama" in 1969. However, her drug and alcohol use increased with her success until she finally quit her drug use. She formed a third band, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, and it seemed Janis had finally found her niche. While recording Pearl, Janis chanced taking heroin again and overdosed in a Los Angeles hotel at the age of twenty-seven. Her third album was released posthumously to wide acclaim.
Janis's albums have gone gold, platinum, and triple-platinum. She sang from her soul and because of that people still revere her today - people continue to deeply identify with her passionate singing. She has come to be a cultural icon of the sixties, representative of lost innocence.