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Goodbye, Janis Joplin

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"I only knock that in that so many people will be looking for reasoning and logic – it doesn't mean that man was meant to go, that thing was meant to happen, it was not written somewhere . . . We don't really know. If, if, hypotheically speaking – if both of them are the result of, let us say argumentatively, heroin, the ironic twist would be that they may have a positive effect in that a lot of young people would get off heroin. But because they weren't, what effect will these two deaths have? I should like to think that some of the people who have become successful will begin to evaluate their use of the success and what they have done with it and whether they control it or does it control them . . . Janis, like anybody else in rock, I don't think ever knew how to handle success . . . I think it created problems for Janis – but it never spoiled her. It has always been questionable – does this kind of success include happiness? People have said to me many times, look at you yelling and screaming all the time, with all your money, are you happy? That's for me to determine . . . Am I trying to do what I think I can serve life best at? Did Janis? Do you?"

Graham also dismissed theories that the deaths of Janis, Jimi and Al Wilson, the breakup of the Beatles, the change in Dylan or the inactivity of the Stones meant the "death" of Sixties rock and roll. He said he saw no parallel with the plane crash deaths of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens in the late Fifties and the simultaneous disappearance of Elvis into the Army, Chuck Berry into jail and figures like Fats Domino and Little Richard into retirement.

"Janis is not all of rock and roll or music or entertainment or pop and neither was Jimi Hendrix. And it only remains to be seen who is coming along to join who is left, to see what we will have. Nobody can say. Nobody can really say what the creative elements will bring to bear. If Bob Dylan didn't come along in the same era as the Band and the Beatles, would this have happened? So you can't really say are the Sixties dead, what is going to come along to replace it – the people who are stars today are going to remain the stars until new stars bump them, put them aside. There are certain acts that shouldn't even be in showbusiness that are headliners today because nobody is taking their place . . . "

At the Airplane House in San Francisco it was business-as-usual; they knew about Janis, but they weren't talking much about it. It was almost as if putting energy behind it might make it worse. Joey Covington sat in the "office," talking on the telephone about buying a car. The Airplane had played a late gig at Winterland the night before, and were just waking up.

"Did you hear that Janis died?" asked Jackie, the Airplane's office manager.

"Yeah, yeah, that's really a shame," said Joey. "The music world lost a great singer. It's really sort of strange to be riding in your car and think about it – about the Hendrix thing, and Janis. Really sort of strange.

"You know what I flashed on today? I flashed on the Jimi Hendrix thing in Rolling Stone about another pop star dying. I was thinking it'd be pretty far out if you didn't cop on a dead thing, a death trip in your paper.

"I mean, I read articles today that were really fucking dumb, in the papers: 'Oh, the way she used to let her breasts swing, and she didn't wear a bra . . . ' That shit's so dumb, man. I hope your paper doesn't do that."

Grace, barefoot, padded across the room to the water cooler, filled a vase with water, and disappeared again into her room. I knocked on the door, opened it, and asked her if there was anything she wanted to say about Janis.

"Well," she said, "not really. I think it's kind of  . . . well, not corny exactly, but . . . why print all that stuff about someone who's dead? She's gone, it's done. I mean. I'm sorry she's dead, but . . . you know? If I come up with any jewels, I'll send them to you, OK?"

In Austin, Texas, Ken Threadgill, a famous folkie who ran a bar called Theardgill's where Janis first began singing in 1961, said he remembered her as "wonderful old gal, just good common country people. I thought a hell of a lot of Janis. She always said I helped her get started but I was just here and I liked her and her singing. It's hard to believe she was here in Austin just 85 days ago" (for a birthday party and testimonial for Threadgill).

In New York, Clive Davis, president of Columbia Records said he felt Janis "uniquely personified contemporary rock music in spirit, in talent and in personality. Janis and contemporary music shot out of Monterey together in 1967 and I was fortunate to be there. I will always be personally grateful to her as she more than anyone else at Monterey made me intensely aware and excited about the new and future direction of music."

On the day after Janis died, the offices of Columbia in New York looked pretty much the way they do on any ordinary day, except that a fresh batch of her last album, I Got Dem Ol Kozmic Blues Again, Mama had arrived from the Grossman Office. Columbia had run out of records.

At the Grossman office everyone looked gloomy. "Janis would run in laughing and disrupted things everytime she was in New York," one employee recalled. Someone else would mention the beginning of an anecdote, or start a story, and then it would fade off. This is probably the toughest, most successful organizations in one of the cruelest businesses in the country.

At Sam Goody's (a huge, East Coast record chain in New York), clerks were bringing up Janis and Jimi albums from the basement. They didn't look particularly sad, or happy.

And at the Landmark Motor Hotel, one of Janis' musicians looked at the bright facade and squinted. "It's a hell of a place to die."

On Wednesday, October 7th, Janis Joplin's body was cremated, according to her wishes. A very private service was held for the immediate members of her family – her parents, brother and sister, aunts, uncles and cousins. The location was not disclosed.

According to Robert Gordon, her attorney, the family at first wanted to take her body back to Port Arthur for burial, but later agreed to their daughter's request. "They're not unhappy about that," said John Cooke, Janis' road manager since her days with Big Brother.

Cooke also said Janis' closest friends, including her roommate Lindall Erb, gathered at the Landmark Motor Inn and did not attend the service. "Lindall's OK now," Cooke said. "We're all here together."

Gordon said Janis' ashes will be scattered at sea off Marin County at some indeterminate date.

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