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Her teen influences include blues artists Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Lead Belly, who she claimed influenced her to become a singer. She drew inspiration at this time from other blues singers such as Odetta, Billie Holiday and Big Mama Thornton.
Joplin’s turbulent and roller-coaster life has been well documented. She is quoted as saying that at school she was “a misfit” and she was cruelly taunted about her weight and severe acne.
Joplin’s relationship with drugs and alcohol is also well documented. The early 60’s were a turbulent time for her, characterised by increasing drug and alcohol use, and she embraced the hippie lifestyle of San Francisco and Haight-Ashbury. Despite this, she recorded a number of tracks with future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, including “Typewriter Talk,” “Trouble in Mind“, “Kansas City Blues“, “Hesitation Blues“, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out“, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy” and “Long Black Train Blues”.
Concerned by the effects of her drug use, her friends convinced her to return home to Texas in 1965. There, Joplin started to turn her life around, avoiding drugs and alcohol. She continued to play and perform, and recorded seven studio tracks in 1965 (these were issued as a new album in 1994 entitled This is Janis Joplin 1965).
In 1966, she joined psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and returned to San Francisco. Not long after, she began using drugs again intermittently.
Her first major studio release was Cheap Thrills, recorded with Big Brother and the Holding Company. Tracks from the album included “Summertime“, “Combination of the Two“, “I Need a Man to Love“, “Ball and Chain” and “Piece of My Heart“. Cheap Thrills reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart eight weeks after its release, remained there for eight (non-consecutive) weeks and sold over a million copies in the first month of its release.
Joplin left Big Brother in late 1968 to pursue her solo career and formed a new backup group, the Kozmic Blues Band. Around this time she returned to drugs, allegedly shooting at least $200 worth of heroin per day (over $2500 today).
She continued to perform, appearing in Frankfurt, Stockholm, and London at Royal Albert Hall. She performed on the Tom Jones television show, appeared with Tina Turner at Madison Square Garden, and was a notable part of Woodstockwhere, though stoned and drunk on stage, she still received an encore for her performance. Her drug use by this time was out of control, seriously affecting her performances. At the end of the year, the Kozmic Blues Band broke up.
In February 1970, Joplin stopped her drug and alcohol use while in Brazil for a period, but picked up heroin again when she returned to the United States. Around this time she formed her new band, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, and began touring in May 1970. Later that year, they joined the Festival Express train tour through Canada, performing alongside Buddy Guy, Grateful Dead, Delaney and Bonnie, and others. Her performances on this tour are considered to be among her greatest.
During August, September and early October 1970, Joplin and her band recorded a new album in Los Angeles. She died of an overdose before all the tracks were fully completed. The result was the posthumously released Pearl(1971). Pearl became the biggest-selling album of her career, featuring her biggest hit single, “Me and Bobby McGee” (a cover of Kris Kristofferson‘s) In 2003, Pearl was ranked No. 122 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time“.
Five of Joplin’s singles made the Billboard Top 100, including “Me and Bobby McGee”, “Piece of My Heart”, “Cry Baby”, “Down on Me”, “Ball ‘n’ Chain”, “Summertime”, and “Mercedes Benz” the final song she recorded.
©  — Blues Rock Legends