First, Janis

In August, 1970, Janis Joplin made an on-air announcement to talk show host Dick Cavett that she planned on attending her high school's ten-year reunion. Her reasons were more a self-satisfactory need to redeem herself from the harsh judgements she'd valiantly endured as an awkward and non-conforming teenager than a need to catch up on things back home. A free spirit, Joplin was often beleaguered by her classmate's taunts, once being named the 'Ugliest Man on Campus.' Those close to her questioned the need to return to Port Arthur. Indeed, Janis didn't owe her classmates anything, and certainly nothing but 'bad vibes' would be expected in return.


Janis arrived in Port Arthur surrounded by a que of friends, including her tour manager, John Byrne Cooke. Her parents, perhaps sensing the failure of the event, made plans to keep themselves out of the line of fire during her visit. It was more her flamboyant ways that had far outgrown the dogmatic Port Arthur that worried them. The obvious was true: Janis didn't live here anymore. She did not have to deal with the aftermath of her homecoming, but they did. Janis took their absence as one of many hurts she'd dealt with, focusing instead on promoting her decision to move to San Fransisco, where beatniks like her could make it all day and never feel the blues.

The reunion, although fruitful in that it provided a much needed perspective, didn't fare well: her classmates were less happy to see her as she was, focusing instead on the circus-like appeal of a rock-star strutting like a peacock with its feathers full spread. They awarded her with a tongue-in-cheek award, a rubber tire, for the sheer amount of distance she'd traveled. Janis accepted the award, but inside the disappointment must have been soul-wrenching. Couldn't they have been complimentary for once?

You can't go home anymore, not if you've far outgrown its perimeters spiritually and mentally. Janis went on to record in Los Angeles for her new album titled Pearl, and become engaged. Once and for all it seemed she had gotten her literal shit together, as the old Janis was now DOA and gone forever.

But that lonely ache, that unending need to be understood, and more than anything loved, must have burned inside of Janis. The reunion, insecurities about her career, and hints of trouble with her fiance, perhaps created an unstable mix. On October 4, 1970, she missed a recording session to lay down vocals for the ironically titled song Buried Alive in the Blues. Tour manager John Cooke went to the Landmark Motel only to find her lying face down between the nightstand and the bed. Alcohol and heroin were the culprits, but sadly things had been made worse by a dealer who had sold her untested heroin, a batch which turned out to be lethal to a small group of others in the Los Angeles area that weekend.

No one will ever know what compelled Janis to succumb to her addiction when everything seemed to be going so right. Depression wasn't directly obvious to those around her, indeed many felt she had stepped into a prime apex of her vocal talents, her fame, and the proverbial ability to get her shit together as a grown ass woman in this world.

The heart is a lonely hunter. It swims deep, and sometimes when confronted with loneliness even a star as brilliant and tenacious as Janis Joplin fails to survive. But her legend has carried on, despite her physical absence.

Did the reunion contribute to her death?  It's impossible to judge as we've all had to make that decision before: going home and facing that old part of ourselves that is vulnerable and like a child. What we do know is the legacy of her talent is astounding, and that is all that should count in this world.

I wish you a wonderful day. Thank you for reading!


  1. I remember the interview very well. My heart went out to her. What happens in childhood often stays with us throughout our lives. However, her difficult life did not kill her, heroin did.

    1. I loved Janis Joplin and was truly devastated when news of her death was announced. She absolutely gave everything when she performed and for me has always been unforgettable...

    2. I so agree! It's so awesome that people love her as much as they do--she was truly an incredible singer and human being!


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