As the Hollywood star is set to play ‘The Queen of Psychedelic Soul’ we take a look at America’s goddess of blues
The news had us excitedly gasping for breath in the office: Amy Adams is reportedly confirmed to play musical legend Janis Joplin in an upcoming biopic.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film is set to start filming later next year. Adams was reported to star in the project – entitled ‘Get It While You Can’ – way back in 2010 so we’re pleased to hear plans are back up-and-running again.
In light of today’s news, we ask the question: just what is it about Janis Joplin that still fascinates us 44 years after her untimely death? In prep for Amy Adams’ big screen transformation in 2015, we take a look at ‘The Queen of Psychedelic Soul’…
The 27 Club
Dubbed ‘the first lady of rock ‘n’ roll’, she belongs to it’s most exclusive of clubs: The 27 Club. In 1970, Janis’ infamous love of Southern Comfort and heroin entered her into a tragic group of popular musicians who died at the tender age of 27 alongside fellow hell-raiser Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones. Part of Janis’ mystique is fuelled by her sudden ascent to fame: what could’ve been had she survived her battle with alcohol and drugs? It’s a question that still haunts her memory…
There was far more to Janis than simply an addictive personality and an early death. What lingers on decades later is her bluesy vocals, whisky-soaked and unrefined. Unlike fellow female vocalists at the time such as Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell or Judy Collins, Janis rejected the ambient folk sounds of the 1960s, opting to remain true to her deep-tones and bourbon-cracked style. Her vocal performance wasn’t like anything we’d heard before. 1970 a cappella hit ‘Mercedes Benz’ showcases her unique voice with gospel-gusto and still remains one of her most famous songs. Janis recorded it in one take. Impressive, huh?
Hell-raiser and rule-breaker
Janis Joplin’s ’wild child’ reputation wasn’t just an on-stage act: it was a way of life she had established since her rebellious teenage years. At her high school, she rejected 1950s Mad Men attire in favour of men’s shirts and short skirts. Her own campus newspaper profiled her in 1962: ‘She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levi’s to class because they’re more comfortable, and carries her autoharp with her everywhere she goes…’ A lover of speed, heroin, bourbon and blues, Janis’ attitude was styled after her Beat Generation heroes. Later on Janis would swig whisky straight from the bottle on stage – the bottle and the drugs would soon be her undoing.
Just looking at the songs that define her short career tells you all you need to know about Janis: ‘Summertime’, ‘Piece Of My Heart’, To Love Somebody’, ‘Mercedes Benz’ and ‘Me and Bobby McGee’. The hits kept coming…and each one, including her blues covers, was transformed into a unique sound.
She may have sung about a Mercedes Benz, but the reality was a little different. Janis Joplin didn’t just drive a Porsche; she drove a psychedelic-painted Porsche. A 356c Cabriolet, to be exact…Bought for $3500 in 1965, the customized car was pimped by a roadie for her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Time to put on our shades, perhaps?
Legacy and influence
Many have drawn the similarities between Amy Winehouse’s life, work and death at 27 with Janis’ yet there are countless other artists and musicians who claim influence from Janis Joplin’s music. With the likes of Florence Welch and Stevie Nicks claiming inspiration, the legacy of this Texan wild-child is in no danger of losing appeal as we approach 2015.
Often copied, yet never bettered, Janis Joplin’s life and work – though desperately short – lingers on.