100 Greatest Singers

28

Janis Joplin

Stevenson/Retna UK

Born January 19th, 1943 (died October 4th, 1970)
Key Tracks "Piece of My Heart," "Cry Baby," "Me and Bobby McGee"
Influenced Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams

"She was shaking that shake that she did, and was screaming. I'd never seen anything like it," says Melissa Etheridge of seeing Janis Joplin on "The Ed Sullivan Show" back in 1969. Joplin's gravelly rasp, over the psychedelic blues of Big Brother and the Holding Company (on 1968's breakthrough Cheap Thrills), and the rough-hewn country soul on her later solo albums, represented an entirely different approach for female vocalists: wild and uninhibited yet still focused and deliberate. Her performances were more about passionate abandon and nuanced phrasing than perfect pitch. "She would just kinda sing and scream and cry," says Etheridge, "and she'd sound like an old black woman — which is exactly what she was trying to sound like."

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