1. Before she became famous, Janis once walked up to Bob Dylan and told him she was going to be famous one day.
He responded, “Yeah, we all gonna be famous.”
2. She wasn’t afraid to admit that she liked to be around men.
During an interview, Howard Smith (The Smith Tapes) asked her why she didn’t have women in any of her groups.
“You show me a good drummer and I’ll hire one,” she responded. “Show me a good chick — besides I don’t want chicks on the road with me. I got enough competition, man.”
3. She demanded to be different, growing up.
According to Janis’ siblings and childhood friends, Janis was the first one in the family to find out that “if you were rocking the boat, you might get noticed. She liked rocking the boat.”
“She was pushing the limits and women weren’t supposed to swear, and women were supposed to be demure and not know that anything existed below their waistlines,” said Dave Moriaty, one of Joplin’s childhood friends.
4. She never had formal vocal training.
Janis’ parents had wanted her to be a school teacher. But she started singing when she was 17 and never turned back. She was completely self-taught, learning from listening to many great musicians.
“I discovered I had this incredibly loud voice. So I started singing blues because that was always what I liked,” Janis said in Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue. “I got in a bluegrass band and played hillbilly music in Austin, TX for free beer. I used to sing in folk clubs just for a goof.”
5. She was free about her sexuality, dating both women and men.
“I don’t think she was with girls to shock people. I think she was with girls because that’s what she felt at the moment,” said Jae Whittaker, Janis’ former girlfriend.
6. The main inspiration for her singing style was Otis Redding.
Janis was incredibly inspired by Otis Redding when she first saw him at the Filmore.
“Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, they are so subtle, they could milk you, with two notes. They could go no farther than from an A to a B and they could make you feel like they told you the whole universe. And Otis, my man. I think maybe if I keep singin’, maybe I’ll get it.”
7. She once airlifted a friend into Woodstock.
When Janis learned that her friend and sometimes lover Peggy Caserta was stuck in traffic and wouldn’t be able to make it to Woodstock, where Janis was performing, she sent a helicopter to fetch her friend.
8. Her talents brought Kris Kristofferson to tears.
Kris Kristofferson didn’t get to hear Janis’ rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee” — a song that he wrote — until after her death.
“I didn’t hear [it] until she was gone. And it was very emotional for me. I could just see her saying, ‘wait till that son of a b***h hears this,’ you know?” said Kris Kristofferson.
Janis’ “Me and Bobby McGee” became the number one single in the U.S. in 1971.
9. She was unapologetic about defying gender roles at the time.
During an interview, Howard Smith told Janis that “it seems to bother a lot of women’s lib people that you’re kind of so upfront sexually.”
To which she confidently answered: “I’m representing everything they want, you know? It’s sort of like you are what you settle for…you are only as much as you settle for,” she said. “I’m just doing what I want to, and what feels right, and not settling for bulls*** and it works. How can they be mad at that?”
10. She put her friends’ happiness above all else.
“Pearl,” the name of her last album, was also what her friends used to call her. In her will, Janis left more than $1,500 to her friends to throw a big party: “The drinks are on pearl.”