For one week we will tell the story of this unforgettable artist during a program titled Kozmic Blues: The Life and Music of Janis Joplin. In her work as a singer, songwriter, and performer, Joplin combined the experimentation of the counterculture with her roots in folk, blues, and soul music to create some of the most inventive and exciting rock music of her era. She redefined the role of women in rock and roll and continues to inspire countless male and female artists to this day. The Rock Hall will also feature a spotlight exhibit to highlight key moments in Joplin’s career.
“I am touched, as is the rest of the family, that Janis’ musical and social power continue to inspire and remain important in the lives of so many,” said Laura Joplin, Janis’ sister. “We thank the Rock Hall for selecting her for the 2009 American Music Masters series. It is a true compliment and homage to her contributions, and she would be proud to see her name among the others who have been honored.”
“American Music Masters reflects the scope of the Rock Hall’s educational mission,” said Dr. Lauren Onkey, vice president of education and public programs for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. “ It’s a week full of intimate interviews with the people who know the artist’s work best, classes for students of all ages, and an unforgettable concert that combine to offer a unique perspective on a legendary musical artist. In a year when Americans are reflecting on the cultural upheaval of the late 1960s, American Music Masters is the perfect platform to explore one of the counterculture’s most distinctive and revolutionary artists. We’re excited and honored to tell Janis Joplin’s story, and to consider why it still matters so much to us today.”
This signature event begins on Monday, November 9, and will feature panels, films and educational programs throughout the week. On Saturday, November 14, an all-day Rock and Roll Retrospective will be held at Case Western Reserve University, exploring Joplin’s impact on popular music. The tribute concert will be held Saturday, November 14, at 8 p.m. at PlayhouseSquare’s State Theater in Cleveland. Tickets are $30, $40 and $50. Rock Hall Members may purchase advance tickets by calling (216) 515-1999 on September 1, 2009 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and September 2, 2009 from Noon to 8 p.m. The general public may purchase tickets beginning September 3, 2009 at the PlayhouseSquare box office, calling (216) 241-6000 or by visiting http://www.rockhall.com. A limited number of Rock Hall VIP event packages starting at $250 are available by calling (216) 515-1999. Artists performing at the tribute concert will be announced in the coming weeks.
Each year, the American Music Masters® series explores the legacy of a pioneering rock and roll figure in a range of events that includes Museum exhibits, lectures, films, a major conference and a tribute concert benefiting the Rock Hall’s education programs. Drawing together experts, artists, fans and friends, these events provide new perspectives on the most beloved and influential musicians of the past century.
The tribute concert brings together a diverse mix of artists and musical styles, and as a result, many magical moments have taken place over the years. In 2004, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss performed onstage together for the first time to honor Lead Belly. This year the pair was awarded the highest honors of Album of the Year for Raising Sand and Record of the Year for “Please Read the Letter” at the 51st annual Grammy awards. Honoree Jerry Lee Lewis, who was not scheduled to perform at the 2007 concert, was moved to take the stage at the end of the show. Lewis tenderly played the piano and sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. At the first American Music Masters tribute concert, Bruce Springsteen set the bar high and performed in honor of Woody Guthrie. The most star-studded and unique performance by a trio was Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke and Elvis Costello paying tribute to Sam Cooke in 2005. Last year, a 93-year-old Les Paul took the stage with his trio and then led an epic jam with some of rock and roll’s greatest guitarists, from Jennifer Batten to Slash.
About Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin has passed into the realm of a legend: an outwardly brash yet inwardly vulnerable and troubled personality who possessed one of the most passionate voices in rock history. Her legacy now reaches beyond her music to her include her persona as the embodiment of freedom. Music journalist Ellen Willis asserted that “Joplin belonged to that select group of pop figures who mattered as much for themselves as for their music. Among American rock performers, she was second only to Bob Dylan in importance as a creator-recorder-embodiment of her generation’s mythology. She was also the only woman to achieve that kind of stature in what was basically a male club, the only ‘60s culture hero to make visible and public, women’s experience of the quest for liberation, which was very different from men’s.”
Joplin was born in 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas, an oil-refining town on the coast. Growing up, she was a social outcast who found an outlet in music. Joplin was drawn to blues (Odetta, Leadbelly and Bessie Smith) and soul (Otis Redding, Tina Turner and Etta James). She performed folk blues on the coffeehouse circuit in Texas and San Francisco before hooking up with Big Brother - guitarists James Gurley and Sam Andrew, bassist Peter Albin and drummer David Getz - at the suggestion of Chet Helms, a hip entrepreneur and fellow Texan. The chemistry came as a revelation even to Joplin: “All of a sudden, someone threw me in front of this rock and roll band,” she said. “And I decided then and there that was it. I never wanted to do anything else.”
Big Brother and the Holding Company was loud, explosive and somewhat deliberately crude in their melange of blues and psychedelia. Helms, one of a group of event organizers who called themselves the Family Dog, booked the group on some of the earliest bills on the nascent San Francisco scene. Big Brother became regulars at Helm’s Avalon Ballroom in the mid-to-late Sixties. Big Brother broke on to the national scene with their stunning performance of “Ball and Chain” and the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. It was at the Avalon where much of Cheap Thrills - an album that topped the album charts for eight weeks in 1968 - was recorded. That explosive showcase of psychedelic soul featured Joplin’s raw, impassioned readings of Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton’s “Ball and Chain” and “Piece of My Heart.” The latter song, which had been a Top Ten R&B hit in 1967 for Erma Franklin (Aretha’s younger sister), was co-written by Jerry Ragavoy, a favorite songwriter of Joplin’s. As a solo artist, she’d record other songs of his, including “Cry Baby,” “Get It While You Can” and “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder).”
Joplin left Big Brother in December 1968, taking guitarist Sam Andrew with her. On her first solo album, I’ve Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! (1969), she developed her interest in soul with the Kozmic Blues Band, which included a full horn section. She toured extensively in 1969 in the U.S. and Europe, furthering her reputation as a galvanizing live performer. By mid-1970, however, she’d dissolved that outfit and formed a superb new one, Full-Tilt Boogie. They gelled over the course of several months of touring and entered the studio to record what would turn out to be Joplin’s swan song. Joplin had often sought refuge in drugs and alcohol, and she was found dead of a heroin overdose in a Hollywood hotel room on October 4, 1970. The posthumously released Pearl – the title was her nickname – comprised nine finished tracks and one instrumental to which she was supposed to have added vocals on the day she died. It was prophetically titled “Buried Alive in the Blues.”
Pearl became Joplin’s biggest seller, holding down the #1 position for nine weeks in 1971. It included “Me and Bobby McGee,” a song written for her by ex-lover Kris Kristofferson. A quixotic portrait of a countercultural love affair, sung by Joplin as an affectionate, road-weary country blues, “Me and Bobby McGee” perfectly captured the bohemian spirit of the times. The powerful performances on Pearl, including “Move Over,” “Half Moon” and “Get It While You Can,” hint at what might have come from Joplin had she not died at 27.
About the American Music Masters® Series
The American Music Masters® series, a co-production of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, celebrates the lives and careers of artists who changed the shape and sound of American culture.
The American Music Masters® series began in 1996 when the museum paid tribute to Woody Guthrie with a 10-day celebration of his life and legacy. Other American Music Masters® series honorees have included: the father of country music, Jimmie Rodgers in 1997; blues legend, Robert Johnson in 1998; rhythm and blues pioneer, Louis Jordan in 1999; the legendary Muddy Waters in 2000; the “Empress” Bessie Smith in 2001; Hank Williams, the first country western superstar in 2002; Buddy Holly in 2003; folk-blues artist Lead Belly in 2004; Sam Cooke in 2005; Roy Orbison in 2006; Jerry Lee Lewis in 2007 and Les Paul in 2008. Artists who have performed at American Music Masters® include Solomon Burke, Elvis Costello, Aretha Franklin, Chrissie Hynde, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, Richie Sambora, Slash and The Ventures.
About the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is the nonprofit organization that exists to educate visitors, fans and scholars from around the world about the history and continuing significance of rock and roll music. It carries out this mission both through its operation of a world-class museum that collects, preserves, exhibits and interprets this art form and through its library and archives as well as its educational programs.
The Museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Wednesdays (and Saturdays through Labor Day), the Museum is open until 9 p.m. Museum admission is $22 for adults, $18 for adult residents of Greater Cleveland, $17 for seniors (65+), $13 for youth (9-12), children under 8 and Museum Members are always free, for information or to join the membership program call 216. 515.8425. For general inquiries, please call 216.781.ROCK or visit http://www.rockhall.com. The Museum is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.
About Case Western Reserve University
Case Western Reserve University is among the nation’s leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case Western Reserve offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work. http://www.case.edu. Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities Established in 1996 with a generous gift of endowment from Eric and Jane Nord to celebrate the achievements of the arts and humanities, the Center facilitates cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary collaborations that address questions and problems of broad human interest.