Almost half a century ago today, rock lost one of its greatest female icons: Janis Joplin.
Known for her bluesy-meets-psychadelic beats and her effervescent personality, Joplin had a short but successful career that spanned some of the most revolutionary years in music.
Whether you’re a lover of good ol’ rock and roll or looking to rediscover some classics, here are five Joplin jams not to be missed:
“Women is Losers” (1967)
Before she went solo, Joplin made her debut as a member of Big Brother and the Holding Company, a psychedelic rock band she became acquainted with in the hippie district of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco. Joplin may only be credited as a featured artist on “Women is Losers,” but there’s no denying that her vocals make the track what it is. Lyrics like “men almost always seem to end up on top” undeniably invoke feminist undertones; 1967 was an iconic year in the second-wave feminism movement — the pill was featured on the cover of Time magazine, and the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in the U.S. Senate.
“Piece of My Heart” (1968)
Featured on Big Brother and the Holding Company’s second album “Cheap Thrills,” “Piece of My Heart” is undoubtably one of Joplin’s most well-known tracks. After the band’s breakthrough performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June ’67, “Cheap Thrills” sold over a million copies in the first month it was released and officially skyrocketed Joplin to stardom. Originally recorded by Erma Franklin a year earlier, Big Brother transformed the soulful piano single into a guitar-heavy rock track roughed up with Joplin’s raspy vocals.
“Little Girl Blue” (1969)
After Joplin split from Big Brother, she formed the Kozmic Blues Band to back up her vocals, which would explain the solo album’s title: “I Got Dem ‘Ol Kozmic Blues Again Mama!” The track “Little Girl Blue” has its origins in the 1935 musical “Jumbo,” and the slow tempo was kept for Joplin’s cover. Later that year, Joplin performed at Madison Square Garden with one of her idols, Tina Turner, in a concert headlined by The Rolling Stones. Joplin famously said, “On stage, I make love to 25,000 different people, then I go home alone.”
“Half Moon” (1971)
Although “Half Moon” wasn’t formally released before her death, Joplin did get to perform the song on The Dick Cavett show in 1970. “Pearl,” Joplin’s final album, was released posthumously and recorded with the Full Tilt Boogie Band. The album’s cover was shot by famous photographer Barry Fienstein who worked with everyone from John F. Kennedy and Judy Garland to Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones.
“Me and Bobby McGee” (1971)
Another hit most famously covered by Joplin, “Me and Bobby McGee” was released in 1969 by Roger Miller. Joplin’s version was the number one track off of “Pearl,” topping the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. “Pearl” also made the charts in its own right, topping the Billboard 200 for nine weeks straight. The album has been qualified as quadruple platinum according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).