50 years after her death, how were the last hours of Janis Joplin’s life: a cocktail of drugs, homelessness and rock and roll

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Owner of a unique style, she revolutionized the scene and became a female icon. They found her dead in a Los Angeles hotel. She was 27 years old and her legacy lives on.

Never before Janis Joplin appeared, had anyone sung in rock like she did. Nor was there anyone who did it after on Sunday October 4, 1970 her road manager,. John Byrne Cooke, you will find her lifeless by the bed of her room at the Landmark Motor Hotel in Los Angeles. Janis was 27 years old, and this time heroin and alcohol overpowered his busy body.

It was the end of a story of little more than three years of unusual intensity, and the beginning of a legend that carries 50. Part of the rock religion, which a couple of weeks earlier, in London, had passed Jimi Hendrix into that category and that in a few months, in Paris, it would incorporate Jim Morrison into its “club of 27”.

The image is like something out of a movie. Janis is lying there, in an awkward position, with her head and shoulder wedged between the bed and the nightstand. Her hand is still holding four dollar bills and two 25-cent coins; on the other night table, on the other side of the bed, is a box of Marlboros.

Everything is in its place in the room. Her handkerchiefs still cover the lamps just as she put them on to soften the lighting; the bed is made. In one of the drawers there is a hypodermic needle and a spoon. Also drugs, although later the police will say that there was nothing. In the others, only clothes. Y some dried blood, on his face.

Stunned, the man barely pays attention to the noise of engines coming from Franklin Avenue and rebuild the sequence: Janis went out to get change to buy cigarettes from the vending machine in the hotel lobby, came back, sat on the edge of the bed and, before reaching to light one, rocked forward, her head hit the edge of the table of light and it was all over.

Cooke knows her well. He is the one who accompanied her through sunshine and shade from shortly after her appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival, in June 1967, until now. “It’s like a scene from a novel by Raymond Chandler: a body found in a Los Angeles hotel room. Seeing it that way helps to push it off the real plane. I have no doubt that it is, but it helps, and I can accept that paradox, “he wrote in his book. On the Road with Janis Joplin.

Just a short while before, the road manager was spending time with Dave Barry, an old friend who wanted to show the singer a song, before he returned to the Sunset Sound studio. There, the members of her band, which was now the. Full Tilt Boogie, they were waiting for her to complete the recording of his first album really soloist, Pearl. It only remained to put the strawberry for dessert. The session the day before had been fantastic.

Janis only needed to give voice to Buried Alive in the Blues. The rest was ready. The “remainder” included Cry Baby, Me and Bobby McGee, Mercedes Benz, Get It While You Can, A Woman Left Lonely… There, in that last song, Janis had sung, with that amazing mixture of anguish and tenderness that her voice sometimes conveyed, that “A woman who is left alone will soon get tired of waiting; and will do crazy things, yes, on lonely occasions “.

It was then, when he had already married and called Janis to her room, that Cooke received the alert from the producer Paul Rothchild. He, the musicians and the technicians had been waiting for her for an hour. Cooke hung up and went out with Barry, but there is no sign of him in the pool or on the hotel patio. Neither did Vince Mitchell and Phil Badila, both, part of the crew.

The four of them got into Cooke’s Volvo, who stopped short of starting, when he saw Joplin’s psychedelic convertible Porsche parked in front of your room. Inside, the light is on. The driver backs up, asks to be waited for, gets out, walks to door 105, knocks, and receives only silence for an answer.

Cooke doesn’t know why, but he has his copy of the key on him. And he uses it. “There is no one. That is the feeling I get when I see Janis on the floor at the side of the bed. Before I touch that meat, I know it is just a container shell. The spirit has departed”, He later recounted. It looks like a movie, but it isn’t.

They say that Janis had a death in tune with her stormy life. That it was, and of that there is no doubt. The childhood, in conservative and religious Port Arthur, in South Texas, where she was born on January 19, 1943, the daughter of an engineer and a secretary. Adolescence, with skin marked by acne that she required a treatment to improve the texture of her face; her body, due to being overweight that made her the target of easy aggression; and the soul, for his bullying every day. Youth, a spiraling maelstrom of drugs, sex and alcohol. But perhaps his death was not so.

Freak, misfit, weird … These days, Benito Cerati posted an enlightening drawing among the many that Quino gave us: there, a father, with the consent of his wife, reprimands his son for having drawn a curved line in a world of right angles.

“A true work of art,” wrote the leader of Zero Kill. There was something of that in the life of the daughter of Dorothy Bonita East and Seth Ward Joplin (1910–1987), and the sister of Michael and Laura. Only when everything seemed painted an eternal gray, the voices of Bessie Smith Y Ma Rainey they colored their future. Sing: there was the key; your place, your identity. And in San Francisco that became one of the great venues of the “summer of love”, its base of operations.

“I’m doing it, man. For the first time in my life, I think I can sing “. That’s what Janis the DJ, producer and countercultural character of the ’60s told him Milan Melvin, one of the men with whom the singer was romantically and sexually involved. It was on one of the two occasions that they crossed paths, when it was less than a year for her to die.

By then, Janis had released three albums, Big Brother and the Holding Company (1967), Cheap Thrills (1968), I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! (1969), and had become an icon. Not much more than three years earlier, his breakthrough Monterey Pop Festival, in June 1967, was kick the rock board, and since then, passing through the Carousel Ballroom, the Fillmore East in New York, the Winterland Arena in San Francisco and a thousand other places, passing through Woodstock ’69, his image had grown in a phenomenal way. Janis was indeed a phenomenon that also sold a lot.


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