|Elliott Landy—Magnum Janis Joplin backstage at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, 1968.|
It is hard to imagine the queen of blues would have been 70 today. It is even harder to believe that her life ended at only 27. This picture captures her pain, and a side of her we never saw. She was said to have loved books, and for all her on-stage crass and flash, she was a humble, and creative soul, evident in her music.
When I look at this picture I can feel her pain. I'm certain that you can too.
I saw a documentary on her, tracing her career from her home in Port Arthur, Texas to the streets of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. She was not popular in school, had acne, and was always chided being the brunt of her classmates jokes.
In the documentary, she gleefully remarked that, she was going as "Pearl" to her high school reunion. She was elated about finishing her most successful album, and had adopted "Pearl' as her nickname.
Janis made a grand entrance - with feathered hat and satin dress. She was proud she was now "someone."
However, when "Pearl" arrived at the reunion, no one made a fuss. I am sure this was a big let-down for Janis. She looked forward to coming back to school, as the blues star who made it. To her surprise, no one seemed to care. The film captures her just partying with her own entourage, having a good time despite her disappointment.
Janis wasn't at all attractive, but audiences loved her. She was real, gritty and sung from the depths of her troubled heart. We all felt her pain when she belted out the blues songs she grew to love while frequenting back street bars growing up. This is where she adapted her unique style and gutsy presence.
I never saw her in concert, but I grew up with the generation that adored her. Even if you weren't a fan of Janis Joplin, you just had to watch her croon. It was spectacular to say the least. I often wondered where that hurricane of a voice came from.
So, on her 70th birthday, I am singing happy birthday in my heart to the forever-young Janis. The girl whose tears you saw behind her smile.
It is sad that she never lived to enjoy her retirement. But blues singers never really die, they don't even fade away.
It seems fitting that she sang the Dale Evans classic to John Lennon on his 30th birthday; "Happy Trails, Until We Meet Again..."