Goodbye, Janis Joplin

Page 2 of 8

Robert Gordon, the attorney, said Monday that Janis had visited him the previous Thursday (October 1) "on business matters."

"She seemed very happy. She told me she was thinking of getting married. She'd been going with a guy named Seth Morgan for a couple of months. I don't believe he is in music. I think he is from Maine.

"She was also very happy about her album. She'd been in town about a month recording it, and she was enthusiastic about the band and about her own singing. She said she 'felt like a woman.' The band had a tour scheduled for November."

When asked about the "business" Janis had come to see him about, Gordon said: "I might as well tell you. She signed her will." He emphasized however that he didn't think the signing "meant" anything.

"She was happy," Gordon said.

Paul Rothschild, who works for Elektra but who was producing the Columbia sessions (Janis released the albums on Columbia) "independently," at first reported that she was "thrilled and ecstatic." He said he'd known Janis for a long time, and that she seemed "happier and more turned on than anyone can remember." He said the album was "80 percent" done. A source at Columbia, however, reported that the recording "had not been going well, that it was "coming slowly," and that after a month of eight to ten-hour days in the studio, 11 tracks had been cut and only four were considered "good enough."

When confronted with this, Rothschild became furious. He pointed out that he'd had to "fight all the Columbia people" all through the sessions, "the staff and the executives." He said the album was the first by an "outside" producer that Columbia allowed, and that "the record may not have been going smoothly for Columbia, but it was for Janis Joplin."

The Columbia source listed the titles of the 11 tracks as: "Me and Bobby McGhee"; "A Woman Left Lonely"; "Ain't Nobody's Business"; "Trust In Me"; "More, More"; "Cry"; "Get It While You Can"; "Half Moon"; "Got My Baby" and "Happy Birthday, John Lennon."

John Carpenter, music editor of the Los Angeles Free Press and a former partner of Chet Helms (Chet is credited with having brought Janis back to San Francisco after she'd returned to Texas in 1966), at the Family Dog, said he saw Janis last on September 28th at the Troubador on Sunset Strip:

"She talked about her old man, said she 'had a lover now,' and she seemed cheerful but there was something . . . She had a red dress on and I asked her what she was doing there. She said 'I got this new dress and I just wanted to look good.' She was alone. We had a few drinks and there were a lot of people around us. It was just audition night, you know, new young bands, nobody big. Toward the end of the night she kind of announced that she was leaving. Nobody said anything or offered to take her. Finally I called her a cab and she went home alone."

The last person to see Janis alive was Hagy, the Landmark's manager. He told police he spoke to her briefly at 1 AM Sunday morning, and that she "appeared cheerful." Janis had finished a recording session at about 11 PM Saturday night and went with several members of her band to Barnie's Beanery. John Cooke said Janis had had "a few drinks" and then drove her organ player back to the motel, said goodnight, and went to bed.

Mr. and Mrs. Seth Joplin of Port Arthur, Texas, Janis' parents, arrived in Los Angeles on Monday but said they had "no comment for the press." Albert Grossman, her manager, flew in from New York and also refused comment. However a spokesman at his office said he "felt about her as a daughter."

Myra Friedman, a Grossman press representative and close friend of Janis, said the image she sometimes cultivated and sometimes had forced on her, the "Get It While You Can Girl," was not accurate:

"I think Janis knew that wasn't really where she was at. Maybe a part of her believed that, but I think the most honest part didn't. She wasn't a conservative girl – that's ridiculous – but she had a lot of needs that were just like everyone else's. She was accepting of a lot of different kinds of people.

"Recently I met her at the Chelsea Hotel – she always stayed there when she was in New York – and she had been reading a book, I saw it. It was Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe. She told me she read a lot, but 'don't tell anybody.' "

Sam Gordon, who ran Janis' publishing firm, recalled going to Aux Puces, a pub at 55th Street near Park Avenue, recently with her for a drink:

"We were rapping about what we wanted from life," he said. "I said I wished I was on the road again instead of in the comfortable suburban life I've been living for a while now.

"She said: 'Oh, I'll take that.' I asked if that was what she really wanted and she said: 'Yeah, that's what I really want.' "

But Gordon remembers the first song he ever sent to her. It was a Jesse Winchester tune called "Quiet About It." It was religious, in a way. Janis said she couldn't use it: "I can't talk to my God quietly.' "

In April, 1968, shortly after Janis hit New York for the first time, she told writer Nat Hentoff: "I never seemed to be able to control my feelings, to keep them down . . . my mother would try to get me to be like everybody else . . . And I never would. But before getting into this band, it tore my life apart. When you feel that much, you have superhorrible downs. I was always victim to myself. Now though, I've made feeling work for me . . . Maybe I won't last as long as other singers, but I think you can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow. If I hold back, I'm no good now, and I'd rather be good sometimes than holding back all the time . . . like a lot of my generation, and younger, we look back at our parents and see how they gave up and compromised and wound up with very little . . . Man, if it hadn't been for the music, I probably would have done myself in."

Kip Cohen, manager of the Fillmore East, remembers her backstage at the annual Thanksgiving Day dinners Bill Graham always throws for friends and stars:

"She would come but we could never get her to sit down with us at the table. She used to hide on the stairway with a friend and sit there and sip champagne.

"I remember once she came backstage to see Santana and I said the audience would love it if she just went on unannounced to introduce the group. And the idea of the 'real' Janis walking on stage and doing something other than performing, singing, scared her to death. She couldn't do it.

"She had a tremendous amount of assurance when she got it all together onstage, but offstage, privately, she seemed to be very frightened, very timid and very naive about a lot of things.

"Once you become a public figure you relinquish your privacy and the toll is there. The audience certainly demands an enormous amount from a performer, much more than they deserve, and Janis would give everything and after you give everything, what do you do when the audience wants more?

"That shows them to be the overfed, spoiled suburban brats that most of them are, and I'm more angry today over Janis' death because of that."

Cohen said the guilt for Janis was collective, however. He said he didn't expect the kids to react "very strongly." "We showed a slide of Jimi Hendrix here after he died and they all cheered. It was supportive, but I expect them both to be forgotten ultimately. Nor do I see them [kids] looking for substitutes, nor anyone else coming along to play their roles."

Bill Graham, speaking from San Francisco, denied the "connections" that were inevitably being made between Hendrix' and Joplin's deaths:

"None. None. As far as timing is concerned, that it's in the stars or something. Absolutely none. Hendrix was an accident – and Janis, nobody knows yet. I'm sure that somebody has thrown the I Ching or somebody is turning over the pages of some book and reading the charts and looking through the stars and saying, 'I knew it, I knew it.'

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories


The Pack | 2006

Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

More Song Stories entries »