“The greater the feeling of inferiority that has been experienced, the more powerful is the urge to conquest and the more violent the emotional agitation.” —Alfred Adler
Janice Joplin was born January 19, 1943 in Port Arthur Texas to Seth and Dorothy Joplin. Janice was the first born child in a family that would eventually include a sister Laura, who was born 6 years later, and a brother Michael, who was born 10 years later. Janice’s early family life was relatively normal, and as a child she was exceptionally curious and bright. Janice often made up stories as a child and began writing plays while in the first grade, and even at a very young age her creative talent seemed to be developing.
One early story recounted in Myra Friedman’s (1973) book on Janis, recounts how Seth would take the Janis and eventually her siblings down to the post office to look at the pictures of the wanted men as a form of entertainment. Given Janis’s later utter and total disregard for the law and conventionality in her life, one wonders if Janis didn’t develop some kind of sympathy for the “outlaw” from these early experiences, as she certainly began to view herself as existing outside of the bounds of normal society.
In Janis’s words, “The whole world turned on me” when she entered High School, and these years seemed to have an especially profound influence on Janis as well as her later work. Port Arthur was in many ways a rough and even violent city, and as a port town had a number of bars and houses of prostitution to service the men who came to work there. Janis witnessed extreme racism while growing up in Port Arthur, and her tolerance and acceptance of people from other races quickly earned her the nickname “nigger lover” which was one of many that she would eventually acquire in Port Arthur. During this period Janis also gained weight and developed bad skin, and she was often also called a “pig” by the other children in the school.
Following High School Janice enrolled at Lamar State College which she found was much like her High School in Port Arthur, as she again experienced a great deal of rejection here and eventually dropped out. With her parent’s blessing, Janis moved to Los Angeles to live with one of her aunts. Janis eventually moved out of her aunt’s home into a place of her own in Venice Beach and it was during this trip that she began to seriously use drugs including heroin. Having nearly died during her experiences in Venice Beach, Janice again returned to Port Arthur, and eventually decided to return to school, this time at the University of Texas in Austin.
It was during this period of her life where Janis began performing seriously as a musician. She had discovered the blues through listening to records by Odetta and Bessie Smith, and Janis showed an amazing ability to imitate these singers, which was a lifelong talent she had developed even as a young girl. Janis would often play in coffeehouses and other campus spots around Austin, and it was during these formative years where she was able to put together her blues, folk, and rock influences into her own integrated and unique sound. Janis’s favorite place to play was the legendary Threadgill’s where she became close friends with owner Ken Threadgill who was a very positive force in Janis’s life.
Although Austin included many more anti-establishment types than Port Arthur, Janis was still ridiculed and mocked at the University of Texas, and her sense of inferiority as a result of this reached its pinnacle when she was nominated for the “Ugliest Man on Campus” award while attending school in Austin. This was the final blow to Janis in Texas, and shortly after this even she packed her bags and moved to San Francisco to pursue a career as a singer.
Janis moved to Haight Ashbury in 1966 which at the time was the epicenter of the 1960’s. Bands such as the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane were also coming up at this time, and the music and freedom made the Haight in the 1960’s for many a magical time and place to be. Janis found an incredible sense of belonging with Big Brother during this time, and their early work as a band represented the raw energy and improvisational nature of rock and Roll that people were beginning to take notice of.
Janice soon began to outshine Big Brother however, and although they were a highly energetic live band, their improvisational style did not translate well in recording sessions. Janice on the other hand took a great interest in the recording sessions, and was committed to recording an album …