1943 - 1970

“Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.”

– Janis Joplin

Born in 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas, Janis Joplin grew up a social outcast and found an outlet in music. Drawn to soul music powerhouses Otis Redding, Tina Turner, and Etta James; Joplin was also influenced by such blues singers as Odetta, Leadbelly, and the Bessie Smith – whose gravestone was provided by Joplin when she learned the blues legend did not have one. After a period performing on the folk blues coffeehouse circuit in Texas, Joplin brought her powerful, bluesy voice to San Francisco’s psychedelic scene, where she went from drifter to superstar. Her vocal intensity proved an ideal match for the high-energy music of Big Brother and the Holding Company, resulting in a mix of blues, folk, and psychedelic rock. Her time with Big Brother was brief, lasting only from 1966 to 1968, but their performance at 1967’s Monterey International Pop Festival, a highlight of the documentary Monterey Pop (1968), is considered among the greatest performances in Rock & Roll history. After leaving Big Brother in December 1968, she pursued a solo career backed by the Kosmic Blues Band, and then with Full-Tilt Boogie. In mid-1970 she returned to the studio to record what would become her final album, Pearl (1971). Joplin died from a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970 at age 27. The posthumously released Pearl — the title was her nickname — became her biggest seller, holding at #1 on the Billboard US Top 200 for nine weeks in 1971. The album included “Me and Bobby McGee,” a song written for her by ex-lover Kris Kristofferson. Though Joplin was bisexual, her intense sexuality was too entwined with her emotional conflicts, her well-established vulnerabilities, and her substance abuse to be adequately contained by any one label. However her sexuality might be categorized, Janis Joplin has been called the greatest white urban blues and soul singer of her generation – perhaps of all time – and has passed into the realm of legend.


Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Bisexual

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch Second-wave Feminism (1960-1990)

Field(s) of Contribution


Commemorations & Honors

Posthumous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee (1995)

Posthumous Grammy Hall of Fame For Me and Bobby McGee (2002)

Posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2005)

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Honored Her During its Annual American Music Masters Series (2009)

Posthumous Grammy Hall of Fame With Full Tilt Boogie Band For Pearl (2010)

Posthumous Hollywood Walk of Fame Star For Recording (2013)

U.S. Postal Service Commemorative Stamp Music Icons Forever Stamp Series (2014)


Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell