Elevate Difference

Janis Joplin: The Woodstock Experience

What is there left to say about Janis Lynn Joplin that hasn’t been said before? It’s been thirty-eight years since she died from a heroin overdose and yet, we continue to call out for an outcast from Texas who was no great beauty. However, this wild haired flower child is the reason why we have female musicians taking over arenas and baring their souls to millions.

In her brief time on this earth, Joplin managed to do what few men accomplish in their lifetime, which was rock out without giving a damn. By the time she joined the twenty-seven club, she had become one of the most influential singers that has ever lived. Joplin opened doors for women everywhere, seduced fans with her bewitching cackle, but most importantly, she left us with music that will always send shivers up and down our spines. Now, Legacy is commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Joplin’s most important performance at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair with the album Janis Joplin: The Woodstock Experience. Finally, longtime fans and curious listeners can enjoy the electrifying show that truly showcases her as a star whose light will never die out.

It must be noted that a complete set of Joplin at Woodstock has never been available, making it crucial to hear The Woodstock Experience in its entirety. She, along with her new backup group, the Kozmic Blues Band, weren’t always in sync, but Joplin still reveals her private pain to her audience with no remorse. It’s no wonder that one can instantly hear the crowd cheering, and then suddenly silencing themselves to savor every single beat she creates.

In “Raise Your Hand,” Joplin jump starts the party with her signature psychedelic sound. Her excited shrieks and raspy moans are reminiscent of a possessed preacher. It’s this seemingly simple move that broke barriers in the music industry, making it acceptable for anyone to be touched by “black music.” For a true religious experience, her hit “Summertime” cannot be missed. Despite its overpowering horn arrangements, nothing can take over her chilling vocals, which oozes despair. Joplin’s aching wails, explosive cries, and mournful coos in one of her most famous singles leaves her vulnerable on stage, making us want to love her. “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)” showcases her husky, whiskey burned voice, a daring, masculine take that few female singers have successfully accomplished before and after Joplin. This only gives proof that perhaps they’ll never be another artist quite like her, and truthfully, you won’t mind letting the queen of rock ‘n’ roll keep her crown.

A rare treat that The Woodstock Experience offers, aside from the chance to revisit 1969, is the second album of the two-part collection, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! Her first solo album is a beautifully remastered version, demonstrating Joplin’s ability to dominate different genres other than the usual blues most fans already associate with her. “Maybe” a classic, doo wop tune originally sung by The Chantels, is given a velvety, smooth rendition by Joplin, whose distressed, heartbreaking pleads to have her lover back conjures up every single doomed relationship we’ve once had.

For a few minutes, we can actually feel the same loneliness that once plagued her many years ago. “One Good Man” is like lovemaking, the lingering electric guitars leaves you panting and Joplin’s slow chants only makes you want more. “Kozmic Blues” takes Joplin’s hysteria down a notch, without losing all of her beloved fiery spirit. Her unusual cover of The Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” is laced with urgency, breathing life to a too-mellow band overshadowed by horns that are out of tune. Only Joplin can pull off a poor album and to this day, she continues to do so.

Rather than attempting to analyze a woman who has been overly studied since her sudden demise, the simple answer to the question of whether The Woodstock Experience is worth having in one’s collection is a definite yes. As Joplin said at that memorable concert: “I don’t mean to be preachy, but we ought to remember, and that means promoters, too, that music is for grooving, man, not for putting yourself through bad changes. You don’t have to take anyone’s shit, man, just to like music, you know what I mean? So if you’re getting more shit than you deserve, you know what to do about it, man? It’s just music, man. Music’s supposed to be different than that.” It’s no wonder that Joplin will always be immortal and bring forth legions of female artists for decades to come.

Written by: Stephanie Nolasco, August 23rd 2009

The mere fact that she didn't give a damn and that she inspired other women to make music doesn't make Janis a feminist. She is a strong symbol of feminism, but she personally did very little to promote the equality of women. In fact, at points she slept around with men who treated her like shit, she did drugs, and compromised herself for money. There is no denying that she is an amazing musician that inspired thousands of men and women alike, but to label her as a feminist is incorrect in my opinion.