Janis Joplin was the ugly duckling, ostracized from conventional society by her peers. In response, she rejected the usual and turned to music. But, as many of us know, ugly ducklings bloom into swans. True to the tale, Joplin stood on the Woodstock stage with a voice that sets her apart from the crowd and, ironically, blossomed into a swan of a blues-rock goddess with a kick-ass personality.
Janis was born in 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas. Growing up she was especially talented in creative arts such as singing and painting and was gifted with intelligence. Her pretty, blonde childhood years transformed into unruly, untamed and un-pretty years that left her tortured and tormented throughout high school. Janis tried very hard to fit in but instead was taunted and teased. Not pretty or the least bit charming to those who surrounded her, Janis became an outcast who suffered emotionally from the rejections she faced by her peers. Janis began singing the blues and folk while listening to artists like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Lead Belly with her group of outcast friends.
Joplin’s earliest influences included that of Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues. Bessie earned this title from soulful singing that began in her early teenage years on the streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Why was Bessie such a large influence on Janis? “…a suburban middle-class teenager may have nothing materially in common with a slave in a levee camp, but psychologically they share the sexually confused, passive-aggressive tone of the blues.” (45 Pountain&Robins) I think that Janis let Bessie influence her greatly during her teenage years because the blues is all about overcoming tough luck, speaking your mind, letting yourself go and becoming happy and that is just about everything Janis needed. Blues is so electric in that it lets you communicate genuine emotion that sends charged feelings to the crowd. You get the blues, sing the blues, and get rid of the blues.
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