WOMEN WHO SANG THE BLUES, FEMALE POP STARS, and plenty of folkies came before her. But until Janis Joplin crashed the San Francisco music scene in 1963, there weren’t any women who rocked. “It was mind-blowing to watch her,” says John Cooke, Joplin’s road manager. “[It was as if] she could sing more than one note, she could sing chords.” In 1970, months before dying at the age of 27 of a herion overdose, Joplin was working on Pearl, which would bacome her most notable album thanks to “Me and Bobby Mcgee” and “Cry Baby.” But it was her soul-baring live shows that captured her essence–like lighting in a bottle. “Janis lived through the other 23 hours of the day for that one hour on stage. She came off and she was exhausted, sweaty, disheveled, but that was what made Janis,” says Cooke. “She didn’t give much thought to blazing a trail for women. She just went ahead and did what she did. Which, of course, is the best way to start a revolution.
This article was in entertainment weekly’s 100 Greatest Entertainers, #510 Winter 1999. Janis was #89.