Janis Joplin is one of the most revered and iconic rock n’ roll singers of all time, a tragic and misunderstood figure who thrilled millions of listeners and blazed new creative trails before her death in 1971 at age 27. With massive hits including “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Piece of My Heart,” and such classic albums as Cheap Thrills and Pearl, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Joplin was one of the definitive stars to emerge during the musical and cultural revolution of the 1960s. She delivered a breakout performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, and was one of the memorable acts at Woodstock. Her legacy has only grown since her passing.
Janis Joplin Life and Career Timeline
January 19, 1943
Janis Lyn Joplin is born in Port Arthur, TX, to Seth and Dorothy Joplin. She’ll become the older the sister to siblings Laura (b. 1949) and Michael (b. 1953).
Janis graduates from Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur, TX, where she felt like a misfit and was taunted regularly for her weight and skin complexion. Her problems in high school began when she spoke out for racial integration in a town with strict racial separation. Janis was not demure in her dress or speech, which challenged some of the locals to try to keep her in line. After high school graduation, she attends Lamar State College of Technology in Beaumont, TX, in the summer.
Janis moves to Venice, CA.
Janis enrolls at The University of Texas at Austin and begins to study art. She plays bluegrass music gigs in Austin and drops out of the university at the end of the year.
1963 – 1965
Janis moves to San Francisco, CA, and begins recording music. Her romantic partners include a woman, Jae Whittaker, and more significantly, Peter de Blanc, with whom she was engaged. By 1965 Janis is worn out from drug use, withered to 88 pounds, and de Blanc and her friends raise money to send her home to Port Arthur, TX. She lives with her parents and gets sober, and plans a new life for herself. She enrolls at Lamar University in Beaumont and performs regularly in Austin. By the end of 1965, Janis and de Blanc are no longer engaged.
Janis is approached by her friend Chet Helms, a former Texan and early Big Brother & the Holding Company manager, to come back to San Francisco to audition to be the band’s new lead singer. Janis agrees and moves back to San Francisco.
June 10 Janis Joplin’s first performance with Big Brother & The Holding Company at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, which had opened that year. The band includes Peter Albin (bassist), Sam Andrew (guitarist), David Getz (drummer), and James Gurley (guitarist).
July 1 Janis Joplin and Big Brother & The Holding Company perform at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, sharing the bill with Quicksilver Messenger Service and Jaywalkers.
Aug. 7 Janis Joplin and Big Brother & The Holding Company perform at the Fillmore Auditorium with the Grateful Dead.
Aug. – Sept. Big Brother & The Holding Company begins recording their self-titled, debut album for Mainstream records in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Oct. 6 Love Pageant in the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Janis Joplin with Big Brother, Wildflower, The Grateful Dead, and the Electric Chamber Orchestra perform.
Oct. 7 Janis Joplin and Big Brother & The Holding Company perform with Electric Train at the Avalon Ballroom.
Nov. 13 Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company perform at “Zenefit” at the Avalon Ballroom for the Zen Mountain Center. Other performers include the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
Dec. 12-14 Big Brother & The Holding Company complete their final recordings with producer Bob Shad for their debut album on Mainstream Records.
Jan. 17 Janis Joplin performs with Big Brother & the Holding Company at the Matrix.
Feb. 3 Janis Joplin performs with Big Brother & the Holding Company at the Hells Angels’ dance at California Hall in San Francisco.
June 17 -18 Janis Joplin has her groundbreaking performances with Big Brother & the Holding Company at the Monterey International Pop Festival, where The Jimi Hendrix Experience had its American debut. The band’s riveting set on June 17 was not filmed by documentarian D.A. Pennebaker, who was making Monterey Pop at the time; the band was asked to perform again on Day Two, with Pennebaker’s team filming. Janis’ cover of “Ball ‘n’ Chain” became part of the documentary.
Aug. 12 After Big Brother & The Holding Company’s great reception at the Monterey Pop Festival, Columbia Records releases the band’s self-titled debut, originally recorded for Mainstream Records in 1966. It reaches #60.
Nov. Big Brother & the Holding Company sign with Albert Grossman, manager of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Band, and Peter Paul & Mary. Grossman soon gets the band signed to CBS/Columbia Records.
Feb. Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company begin an East Coast tour.
Mar. 2 – May 20 Recording Sessions take place for the Big Brother & the Holding Company album Cheap Thrills, with producer John Simon for CBS/Columbia Records.
Apr. 7 Janis Joplin performs with Big Brother & the Holding Company at the “Wake for Martin Luther King, Jr.” concert in New York with Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Paul Butterfield, and Elvin Bishop.
June 23 Janis Joplin performs with Big Brother & the Holding Company at the Carousel Ballroom.
July 16 Janis Joplin performs with Big Brother & the Holding Company at the opening of the new Fillmore West.
Aug. 12 Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company release Cheap Thrills on CBS/Columbia Records.
Sept. In a meeting at New York’s Chelsea Hotel, Janis Joplin announces she’s leaving Big Brother & the Holding Company.
Sept. 29 “Piece of My Heart,” the lone Top 40 hit by Big Brother and the Holding Company, enters the charts. It reaches #12.
Oct. Cheap Thrills reaches #1 on the Billboard charts. By the end of the year it was the most successful album of 1968, having sold nearly a million copies.
Oct. 26 Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company appear on the West Coast TV show “Hollywood Palace,” performing “Summertime” and “I Need a Man to Love.”
Dec. 7 Janis Joplin performs for the last time as a member of Big Brother & the Holding Company. Two weeks later, she debuts her new group, the Kozmic Blues Band.
Mar. 20 Janis Joplin and her new Kozmic Blues Band open at Winterland in San Francisco.
April-May Janis Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band embark on a European tour with dates in London, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Paris. Her sold-out April performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London gets rave reviews in Melody Maker, Disc, and The Telegraph.
June 6 Janis Joplin makes a guest appearance on stage with the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore West in San Francisco.
July 18 Janis Joplin appears for the first time on the Dick Cavett Show. She becomes a celebrated guest and returns twice in 1970.
Aug. 17 Janis Joplin performs at the Woodstock Festival at 2 am on Sunday.
Sept. 1 Janis Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band perform at the New Orleans Pop Festival held at the Baton Rouge International Speedway.
Sept. 18 Janis Joplin releases first solo album, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again (Mama).
Sept. 20 Janis Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band perform at the Hollywood Bowl.
Nov. 15 Janis Joplin is arrested in Tampa, Florida for using vulgar and indecent language at her concert. Joplin is released on bond, and the charges are eventually dropped.
Nov. 27 Janis Joplin walks on stage (drunk and uninvited) during a Rolling Stones concert at Madison Square Garden in NYC.
Nov. 29 Janis Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band play the West Palm Beach Rock Festival in Florida.
Jan. Janis Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band part ways. Janis forms the Full-Tilt Boogie Band.
June 12 Janis Joplin debuts a new band, Full-Tilt Boogie, at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky.
Apr. 4 Janis Joplin performs a reunion concert with Big Brother & the Holding Company at the Fillmore West.
Apr. 12 Janis Joplin performs a second reunion concert with Big Brother & the Holding Company at Winterland.
May Janis begins tour with her Full Tilt Boogie Band.
June 25 Janis Joplin appears on the Dick Cavett show, announcing that she will attend her 10-year high school reunion in Port Arthur, Texas.
June 28- July 4 Janis Joplin and the Full Tilt Boogie Band join the all-star Festival Express train tour through Canada.
July 11 Janis Joplin and the Full Tilt Boogie Band perform at the Sports Arena in San Diego.
July 16 Janis make a guest appearance on stage with the Grateful Dead at Pepperland in San Rafeal, CA.
Aug. 3 Janis Joplin makes her last appearance on the Dick Cavett show. Guests include Raquel Welch and Chet Huntley.
Aug. 6 Janis Joplin appears as a surprise guest at the Festival for Peace at Shea Stadium in Queens, NY.
Aug. 8 Janis Joplin provides a headstone for the grave of Bessie Smith, her primary influence, who is buried in Philadelphia’s Mount Lawn cemetery.
Aug. 12 Janis Joplin’s last public performance takes place at Harvard Stadium, Boston, MA, with the Full Tilt Boogie Band.
Aug. 14 Janis Joplin returns to Port Arthur, TX, to attends her high school class’ 10th reunion.
Oct. 3 Janis Joplin visits Sunset Sound Recorders Studios in Hollywood, CA, to listen to the instrumental track for the song “Buried Alive in the Blues.” She is scheduled to record her vocal track the next day.
Oct. 4 At the age of 27, Janis Joplin is found dead of a drug overdose at the Landmark Hotel in Los Angeles by her road manager John Cooke. She had been scheduled that Sunday to record vocals on “Buried Alive in the Blues” at Sunset Studios. One verse reads: “All caught up in a landslide / Bad luck pressing in from all sides / Just got knocked off my easy ride / Buried alive in the blues.”
Jan. 11 Four months after her death, Janis Joplin’s last studio recordings are released as the posthumous album Pearl. Featuring “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Mercedes Benz” (co-written by Janis) and “Get It While You Can.” The album stays at the top of the charts for nine weeks.”Me and Bobby McGee” was written by Janis’ friend Kris Kristofferson; to this day it remains her best-selling single.
March 14 “Me and Bobby McGee” becomes a #1 single in the US. It tops Billboard’s pop singles chart for two weeks.
July 14 Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits enters the album charts. It peaks at #22 and sells more than 2 million copies.
Jan. 12 Janis Joplin is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the 10th annual induction dinner. Melissa Etheridge is her presenter.
Rolling Stone Magazine ranks Janis Joplin #46 of the 50 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Janis Joplin is posthumously awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.
American Masters – Janis: Little Girl Blue premieres nationwide Tuesday, May 3, 2016, at 8/7c on PBS (check local schedule) as part of the 30th anniversary season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series. The broadcast features a never-before-seen extended film cut with additional archival performance footage and new interviews with Joplin’s sister Laura Joplin and musicians influenced by Janis.