Janis Joplin Dies of Overdose – 10/4/1970

US History |


On October 4th of 1970, music icon Janis Joplin joined the 27 club. In other words, she was a musician who died at the age of 27 from substance abuse. Other members of the club include Jim Morrison and Amy Winehouse. Janis Joplin died alone in her motel room of a heroin overdose, as many people thought she might do. 

Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1943, to an ultra-conservative, church going family who did not understand the hippie revolution. Janis was the oldest of three children.

In 1966 she found her way to San Francisco, where she soon hooked up with Big Brother and the Holding Company. She became the absolute female embodiment of the term sex, drugs and rock & roll. She had an insatiable appetite for all of those things, and managed to combine them for about three years, until the drug abuse caught up with her.

Janis catapulted to fame at the Monterey Pop Festival, where her soulful, energetic voice and her electrifying presence gained her many admirers. From there she toured and practiced for the next three years, mostly with Big Brother and the Holding Company, but also briefly with background band such as the Kozmic Blues Band, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, and even the Grateful Dead.

At some point, Janis' friends in San Francisco sent her back to Port Arthur, to clean up her act. You know you have a problem when other drug addicts tell you to clean up your act. Janis spent some time in Port Arthur, where she adopted a beehive hairdo and worked in an office. For excitement, she played canasta with friends of her mother. Janis was bored senseless.

Eventually, enough was enough and Janis went back to San Francisco, where it seemed more like she belonged.

Throughout the 1960s in San Francisco, Janis Joplin became an icon of psychedelic rock, funk, and soul. She produced several albums with Big Brother and the Holding Company, and released them with Columbia Records. She appeared at Woodstock. Her relationships (sex) were notorious, and included Kris Kristofferson, who wrote Me & Bobby McGee. Her substance abuse (drugs) was out of control, her two favorite highs being heroin and Southern Comfort. Her chart topping hits (rock & roll) include Me & Bobby McGee, Piece of My Heart, Down on Me, Summertime, and Mercedes Benz, among others. 

Janis, who hated to be left alone, had arranged for two people to visit her room on the night she died. For separate reasons, both of them stood her up, each one thinking the other one would be there. Alone in her room, Janis injected her final shot of heroin and died of an accidental overdose.

When she didn't show up for a recording session the next day, people worried. Janis never missed a recording session, no matter how high she might be. Someone from the studio checked her room at the motel where she was staying, and found her dead on the floor.

In 1995, Janis Joplin was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. 

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Charlie Rodriguez


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