Janis Joplin dies of a heroin overdose

Janis Joplin dies of a heroin overdose

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In the summer of 1966, Janis Joplin was a drifter; four years later, she was a rock-and-roll legend. She’d gone from complete unknown to generational icon on the strength of a single, blistering performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in the summer of 1967, and she’d followed that up with three years of touring and recording that cemented her status as, in the words of one critic, “second only to Bob Dylan in importance as a creator/recorder/embodiment of her generation’s history and mythology.”

Born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1943, Janis Joplin made her way to San Francisco in 1966, where she fell in with a local group called Big Brother and the Holding Company. It was with this group that she would become famous, first through her legendary performance of “Ball And Chain” at Monterey and then with the 1968 album Cheap Thrills. She soon split off to launch a solo career, however, her personality and her voice being far too big to be contained within a group.

”I’d rather not sing than sing quiet,” she once said in comparing herself to one of her musical idols. “Billie Holliday was subtle and refined. I’m going to shove that power right into you, right through you and you can’t refuse it.” But if sheer abandon was Janis Joplin’s vocal trademark, she nevertheless always combined it with a musicality and authenticity that lent her music a great deal more soul than much of what the psychedelic era produced.

But it was never just music, or the passion she displayed in performing it, that made Janis Joplin an icon. It was the no-holds-barred gusto with which she lived every other aspect of her life as well. Far from being an empty cliché, “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” was a revolutionary philosophy to many in the late 1960s, and Janis Joplin was its leading female exponent. Her string of romantic conquests ranged from Kris Kristofferson to Dick Cavett. Her drug and alcohol consumption was prolific. And the rock and roll she produced was timeless, from “Piece Of My Heart,” “Get It While You Can” and “Mercedes Benz” to her biggest pop hit, “Me And My Bobby McGee.”

In the autumn of 1970, Janis Joplin was in Los Angeles putting the finishing touches on the album that would prove to be the biggest hit of her career, Pearl. She did not live to see the album’s release, however. On this day in 1970, she died of an accidental heroin overdose and was discovered in her Los Angeles hotel room after failing to show for a scheduled recording session. She was 27 years old.

Read more: Music Legends Who Lived Fast and Died at 27

Janis Joplin's Tragic Real-Life Story

Almost half a century since her death from an accidental heroin overdose, Janis Joplin's legacy as an icon of psychedelic rock and blues remains nothing less than momentous. Known affectionately to her fans as Pearl, Joplin rose to prominence on the San Francisco music scene during the 1960s, performing both with bands and as a solo artist. She cemented her legacy with appearances at the historic Monterey Pop and Woodstock festivals and garnered a reputation for her hypnotic, deeply charismatic on-stage persona.

In 1970, however, Janis Joplin's life came to a swift and tragic end. Her death was the punctuation mark to a short life of excess, addiction, and illness, spurred on by memories of an uneasy childhood and the troubles of an uneven existence. From the home that couldn't understand her to the men who betrayed her to the music that gave her purpose, this is the tragic, brilliant life of the Pearl of San Francisco.

Joplin was reportedly clean for half a year before her death

As recalled by Ultimate Classic Rock, Joplin was seemingly in a good place about a month before her death. Aside from the fact she was almost done with "Pearl," she enjoyed working with producer Paul Rothchild and making music with her backing group, the Full Tilt Boogie Band. She was also engaged to a man named Seth Morgan and, most importantly, clean for about six months as of September 1970, according to her road manager, John Byrne Cooke.

While everything seemed to be coming up roses for Joplin, she and her band happened to be staying at the Landmark Hotel in Los Angeles while she was recording "Pearl." For someone who had a known heroin addiction, this was the worst place to stay, as Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young singer-guitarist David Crosby recalled in his autobiography, "Long Time Gone," that the Landmark was notorious for its "convenience of being close to the street dealers."

Cooke noted that Joplin's eagerness to work on what would turn out to be a classic album may not have been enough to keep her from scoring dope near her hotel. "There's things about recording that are boring even if you're real excited about your record producer. Even if you're really excited about the music and the band," he explained. "When Janis got bored she started dabbling again."

Janis Joplin: heroin addict, bisexual, fringe and cursed

as the song by Ian Dury said - she had already been practicing it for some time without measure like the great woman liberated from her days.

She was a beast: in bed, burning the hypodermic needle and singing the blues.

She knew she would die young and she didn't care.

Next October 4 marks the 50th anniversary of the star's death.

In a way, that was his way of taking revenge for the humiliations he had received during his adolescence.

She never felt accepted, or wanted, or desired, and when she fled west to live as a

she unleashed and began to build her legend, even at the cost of paying a heavy price.

He never cared: in February 1968, when he visited New York for the first time with his band,

, he checked into the legendary Chelsea Hotel - a place frequented by camels, musicians and groupies, and which by then was beginning to feed his fame of a cursed den-, and wrote a phrase on the headboard of his bed with lipstick:

"The largest sexual object in the world

The hotel manager, it is said, caught his attention:

Janis responded with a laconic "it's the truth."

The world's biggest sex object was known because there wasn't a day that she didn't sleep with someone, and for sex she needed to get high: alcohol, tobacco, her regular

and heroin, or all at once.

Her body was a nuclear power plant and her voice that of the devil

- the best a white blues singer ever had - because she had the same roughness as that of her goddess, Bessie Smith.

No one could deny that she was not the rock queen of the 60s.

He radiated, of course, the charisma of the damned.

He was irregular in his concerts, sometimes he failed because his voice was annoyed by slugs of whiskey and bourbon - months

later he preferred to switch to vodka, softer for his pharynx

, just as toxic for his bulbous liver - but when his throat Janis performed well, space and time were ripped apart.

She mixed wildlife and primitive art, and from that combination the myth was born.

The singer used to dress in a very particular and disheveled way

Many biographers have attempted to explain Janis' astonishing sexual and narcotic voracity beginning in her tormented adolescence.

Born in 1943 in Port Arthur, an unattractive town in a deeply Christian area of ​​Texas, she

always felt like an outcast.

Numerous testimonies have explained that she grew up self-conscious about her physique - she felt that she had small breasts, and

needed to feel desired, because she hated her body

- and she never felt comfortable among ordinary people.

The girls in her class aspired to be cheerleaders while she smoked joints with the bad guys because she had never been invited to the prom.

His family, who did not understand his traumas or understand his passion for the blues, did not help him either.

Avid for sex and freedom - and sick of contempt

sometimes girls threw coins at her feet, which was

a cruel way to call her a whore-

Janis dropped out of college, became a spiritual nomad, and hitchhiked west.

He arrived in San Francisco in the early 1960s, when the psychedelic revolution was brewing and the old

- free spirits and druggies fascinated by literature and travel, as portrayed by Jack Kerouac in

From the first moment, he lived through the frenzied transformation of the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets into an

entertainment transmission center

first - books, magazines, concerts - and later in the epicenter of the countercultural rock shake, where they walked the young rebels who avoided going to Vietnam, looking for sex, drugs and a bed to sleep on.

Janis Joplin's first escape was a failure - she had to leave San Francisco for a time and return to Port Arthur, without her family receiving her as a prodigal daughter or her neighbors seeing her transformation into

and gaudy loose-fitting clothes

To this day, they have not even dedicated a street to it in their town - but it did take root in California on the second attempt.

There he finally materialized his three wishes: to have a band to sing - he found it in

Big Brother & The Holding Company,

who agreed with his anarchic impetus - to have

and also a renewable court of lovers who They will satisfy your sexual appetite.

Janis was, in practice, bisexual, and it has been impossible to build a reliable census of her partners.

He didn't spare an opportunity: boys he met in hotels, musicians he met at festivals - that's how, during the famous Monterey Pop, he slept with Jimi Hendrix and, shortly after,

had a wild night with Jim Morrison at his house ,

while the wife of the leader of

waited patiently in the next room for them to finish, enduring the thunderous screams of Joplin-, or directly slept with groupmates,

, camels or even a backpacker with whom coincided at the Rio de Janeiro carnival in 1970.

In any case, her stable partners were girls, which is why her biographers maintain that, in truth, Janis was always gay: her longest relationship, although intermittent, was with two women who were also a couple, Kim Chappell - previously he had been a lover of singer-songwriter Joan Baez- and Peggy Caserta.

With its comings and goings, this lesbian triangle remained until the date of Janis Joplin's death

soon after, Peggy - still alive, at 79 years old - published all the details in a scandalous sexual biography,

Peggy, as well as numerous testimonies, confirmed that Joplin never wanted to order her life.

She was afloat in chaos: before she was 27 she had suffered up to

- so told her doctor, Dr. Edmund Rothschild - she had a voluntary abortion in Mexico after Christmas '67, she preferred to take amphetamine to snort it And by the time he became a junkie,

the veins in his arm were already disgusting

She wanted to give up drugs and alcohol after a hint of cirrhosis and several juju, but failed: the methadone did not work for her and she returned to the horse at the end of the summer of 70

his death, on October 4 of that year in a hotel in Los Angeles - he was recording his posthumous album,

- was due to a sudden overdose after buying a very pure dose.

Her autopsy also showed that her liver was about to burst.

Janis was always a child misunderstood by her family.

De Janis has remained one of the wildest legend of the 20th century.

His musical career was trampled, but with memorable glimpses in songs like

, which sometimes disguise that his life was a hyperbolic disaster, an outdated chaos in which he wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars into drugs and which led him to make absurd decisions such as signing

a pre-nuptial contract with a certain Seth Morgan,

dealer and pimp whom he had infatuated with in 1970 because he fucked relentlessly and had good merchandise.

But since he lost in life, he won in history.

It is said that at some point, before the end, he dreamed of an orderly routine: having children, retiring to the country, giving up drugs.

But he never got over his youthful trauma, and he

always needed his corrosive pleasures,

which kept him afloat as they consumed him.

She carried her self-destructive impulse to the end, perhaps because she always knew that normalcy would end her too.

In fact, she aspired to take revenge on the world with a scandalous cut of sleeves that destroyed her body, but transformed her soul into legend.

A close friend reveals details that Janis Joplin didn't die of an overdose

A close friend of Janis Joplin, Peggy Caserta, says that Joplin didn't die by an overdose. She offered her theory as to what may have happened in her new book.

In October 1970, Joplin was found dead on the floor of her hotel room. Her death was ruled to be accidental and people thought she died of an overdose of heroin as Joplin was a heavy addict and many other customers of her drug dealer had overdosed in the same week.

Caserta provided a detail in her new book, questioning the current version of Joplin's death. Saying that the detail she'd seen in the hotel room had always concerned her, she suggests that Joplin visited the cigarette vending machine in the hotel lobby after having taken heroin.

In Caserta's memoir, "I Ran Into Some Trouble", she wrote, "I saw her foot sticking out at the end of the bed. She was lying with cigarettes in one hand and change in the other." She expressed that the memory bothered her for many years, questioning how Joplin could have overdosed and was still able to make a cigarette run. She added, "I’ve overdosed, and you crumble on the floor like how they found Philip Seymour Hoffman. I let it go for years, but I always thought, ‘Something is wrong here.'"

To back up her opinion, Caserta added that she had also taken the same heroin supply. She currently believes that Joplin died of asphyxiation from a broken nose after a fall from getting caught in a shag carpet wearing sandals with a "tiny hourglass heel".

“Does it matter at this late date? In some ways maybe it doesn’t," Caserta reflects. "But what matters is the truth, and the truth is that she didn’t overdose. I will go to my grave believing that. God knows I’ve been there several times.”

Caserta's intention of releasing her memoir is to address the inaccuracies of the 1973 book "Going Down with Janis" that contained details of their relationship. Caserta admitted that she "didn't write that smut about Janis" and would never talk like that about their friendship but had lost control from being strung out.

Janis Joplin’s Overdose Tragically Reported in 1970 Newspapers

Many questions surround the tragedy of Janis Joplin’s death. Idolized as a rockstar of her time, her life and career were cut short due to one unfortunate night. How old was Janis Joplin when she died? Where was she at the time of the incident? And what did Janis Joplin die of? This article uncovers details of her death and life through two historical articles.

Singer Janis Joplin’s life ended all alone, in a Hollywood hotel room, on 4 October 1970. So then how did Janis Joplin die exactly? Like Jimi Hendrix 16 days before her and Jim Morrison (of the Doors) 9 months after her, Janis died from drug and alcohol abuse – all three rock stars died at the age of 27. Specifically, in Janis’s case, it was a heroin overdose that killed her.

Photo: Janis Joplin, 26 June 1970. Credit: Grossman Glotzer Management Corporation Wikimedia Commons.

Although she’s an icon in rock and roll history, Janis’s career was remarkably short. She had been singing in small clubs for a few years, but she shot to prominence with her performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967. She recorded four studio albums between 1967 and 1970, and then she was gone. In fact her fourth album, Pearl, was released posthumously.

Janis called herself a beatnik because “beatniks believe things aren’t going to get better and say the hell with it, stay stoned and have a good time.”

Photo: Janis Joplin, c. 1969. Credit: Credit: Grossman Glotzer Management Corporation Wikimedia Commons.

For the three years she was a rock superstar, Janis Joplin did just that. She lived hard and partied harder, and her powerful yet raspy voice reflected the rough edges of her life. Although she’s considered part of the rock ’n’ roll pantheon, her music – like her life – was grounded in the blues.

The following two newspaper articles are about Janis Joplin’s death. Both these articles cover the tragedy of Janis Joplin’s heroin overdose.

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), 5 October 1970, page 5

Here is a transcription of this article:

Top Rock Music Singer Found Dead in Apartment

HOLLYWOOD (AP) – Janis Joplin, a Texas runaway who hit the top as a rock music singer selling millions of records, was found dead Sunday night.

Police said her body, with fresh hypodermic needle marks on the left arm, was found in her Hollywood hotel apartment. An autopsy was ordered to determine the cause of death.

“There were no drugs in the room, only tequila, vodka and wine,” a police spokesman said.

An ambulance attendant said Miss Joplin, 27, was wearing a nightgown and her death “didn’t look like foul play. It looked like she had just fallen over.”

Miss Joplin was the second rock music star to die in less than a month. Guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who also was 27, was found dead in an apartment in London Sept. 18. A pathologist said he had suffocated from vomiting while unconscious.

Miss Joplin, who lived in the San Francisco suburb of Larkspur, had been here since Aug. 24 to perform for Columbia Records. Her body was found by John Cooke, a guitarist with the Janis Joplin Full Tilt Boogie rock group, police said.

Cooke told officers he became suspicious after not seeing Miss Joplin all day and borrowed a key to check her apartment. Investigators said she had been dead about 12 hours.

Miss Joplin rocketed to stardom after singing the blues classic “Ball and Chain” at the 1967 Monterey, Calif., International Pop Festival.

Her albums which sold a million or more copies included “Cheap Thrills” and “I’ve Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama.” She was best known for the songs “Maybe,” “Kozmic Blues,” “One Good Man,” “Work Me Lord,” “Turtle Blues” and “Piece of My Heart.”

She ran away from her Port Arthur, Tex., home at age 17 and after five years of drifting to Houston, New York and Los Angeles, settled in San Francisco where she worked occasionally as a key-punch operator.

One night at a party, she once told an interviewer, she did an imitation of Odetta, the blues folk singer.

“I’d never sung before and I came out with this huge voice,” she said.

After that she sang with small groups in Texas, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Miss Joplin favored hippie-type garb and drove a Porche painted with astrological signs and a bloody U.S. flag. She described herself as a beatnik.

She said “beatniks believe things aren’t going to get better and say the hell with it, stay stoned and have a good time.”

She often drank bourbon while performing and once said of her singing: “It’s all feeling. When I’m singing I’m not thinking.”

Mobile Register (Mobile, Alabama), 6 October 1970, page 1

Here is a transcription of this article on Janis Joplin’s cause of death:

Drugs Blamed in Death of Janis Joplin

HOLLYWOOD (AP) – The coroner’s office said Monday an autopsy showed rock superstar Janis Joplin died from an overdose of drugs.

Miss Joplin was found dead in her apartment Sunday night, clad in a nightgown. The coroner said there was no evidence of violence or foul play.

The coroner said death was due to an overdose of drugs and tests would be needed to determine the type.

Police called for an autopsy after saying they found needle marks on one arm. The autopsy surgeon reported numerous needle marks on both arms, with fresh ones on the left arm.

There was a small amount of alcohol but no evidence of barbiturates, ingredients of sleeping pills, the autopsy surgeon said, and no evidence of injury or violence.

The coroner also said a psychological autopsy, in which a team of behavioral scientists examines the subject’s personal life to determine whether a drug overdose was accidental or intentional, will be conducted.

“People seem to have a high sense of drama about me,” Janis Joplin once told an interviewer. “Maybe they can enjoy my music more if they think I’m destroying myself.

“I got into this because of something inside me. I’m not one of those people with a learned skill. If I’m going to do it I’m going to do it for real. I can’t just go out on stage and fake it. I’ve got to let loose with what’s inside.”

Her galvanic style brought her the title “the Judy Garland of rock.” She bore a resemblance to the previous star in her full-voiced style, her complete openness with an audience, and talk of self-destruction. Miss Garland died in a London apartment in 1969, apparently from a drug overdose.

Born in Port Arthur, Tex., in 1943, Janis Joplin was a rebel at an early age. She left home at 17, drifted across the country, taking odd jobs and occasional college courses. She came to admire beatniks because they “believe things aren’t going to get better and say the hell with it, stay stoned and have a good time.”

Fame overtook her at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. She had been singing in small clubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, developing a mournful blues style that harked back to her early idols, Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter and Bessie Smith.

At Monterey she astounded the huge audience with her vibrant style and depth of feeling on “Love Is like a Ball and Chain.” Her success was made.

Once she analyzed her style:

“Black people have the blues because they can’t have this and they can’t have that. Me, I was brought up in a middle-class family I could have had anything. But you need something more in your gut, man.”

After Monterey came the trappings of superstardom – the shrieking crowds, constant travel, occasional brushes with the law over obscene language on stage. Janis Joplin was rich, but she still lived like a hippie in a cluttered San Francisco apartment.

Although she seemed totally fulfilled as an artist before the audience, she admitted that the rest of her life was wanting.

“The worst thing is the loneliness,” she told an interviewer last year. “Somehow you lost all the old friends. The travel circumstances pull them away.

“It’s hard to make new ones. When we’re not onstage, we rehearse, lay around in bed, check in and out of motels, watch television. It really is lonely. I live for that one hour on stage. It’s full of feeling. It’s more exciting than you’d expect in a lifetime. It’s a rush, honey.”

Death of Janis Joplin Attributed To Accidental Heroin Overdose

“Iɽ rather not sing than sing quiet.” The words are those of Janis Joplin, the raspy‐voiced rock singer who was found dead in her Hollywood hotel apartment Sunday night of what a coroner has determined to be an acci dental overdose of heroin.

The words might serve as an epitaph for the 27‐year‐old vocalist, who belted out such songs as “Love Is Like a Ball and Chain,” “Piece of My Heart” and “Down on Me” with a demonic urgency and passion that won her the ferocious devotion of millions of fans and left her physically and emotionally exhausted.

Miss Joplin succumbed less than three weeks after Jimi Hendrix, also 27, one of rock music's leading performers, died in a London apartment. A pathologist said he had suf focated from vomiting while unconscious after having taken several sleeping pills.

Miss Joplin had gone to Hollywood to record for Co lumbia Records, which had sold millions of her records. Her body was found by her guitar ist, John Cooke, who wondered why the singer had not emerged from her hotel apart ment all day Sunday. He sum moned the police, who deter mined that she had been dead approximately 12 hours.

The police ordered an au topsy on Miss Joplin when they found multiple needle marks on her arm.

Late yesterday, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the Los Angeles Coun ty Coroner, said at a news con ference that a hypodermic needle had been found in the singer's bedroom and that a small container with a white powder had been found in a trash can.

Dr. Noguchi said a red bal loon containing a white pow der, probably heroin, had also been found in the trash can. Some marijuana was found in the apartment but the coroner did not specify the quantity.

“We have excluded the possi bility of a homicide,” Dr. Nogu chi said. “Suicide? There is nothing to indicate at this time it was a death by suicidal at tempt.”

The coroner said that Miss Joplin's liver showed the ef fects of her drinking. Her blood had a 0.11 alcohol content. “She was mildly affected by drink but not to any great ex tent,” he commented.

Dr. Noguchi said that a be havioral scientist was being brought in to study the case before a final determination of death was made.

Miss Joplin leaves her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Seth Joplin of Port Arthur, Tex., where she was born a brother and a sister.

Musicians who died of overdoses

Over the course of recent history, there have been many cases of stars whose lives have come to abrupt ends due to excessive drug and alcohol consumption as well as the subsequent drug overdose.

Below, we will share some of the cases of famous performers that have died of drug overdoses that stand out the most.

1. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix is one of the greatest musicians of all time &ndash besides his undeniable talent- Hendrix is known to have died before his time of a drug overdose. Born in Seattle in 1942, he started his music career at 20 and became one of the top artists of his time shortly after.

He began consuming alcohol and ‘soft drugs’ from a young age, and becoming famous so young led him to get caught up in consuming more potent substances. Jimi’s circle of friends confirmed that he habitually consumed cannabis, large quantities of alcohol, LSD, and cocaine.

On 18 September 1970, Hendrix was found unconscious and intoxicated by his partner. He was declared dead about an hour later in a London hospital. The autopsy later revealed that the Hendrix died of asphyxia caused by vomit brought on by a barbiturate overdose.

2. Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse’s appearance on the music scene in 2003 was a breath of fresh air and brought many genres unknown by youth to the forefront. Jazz, R&B, and soul -to name a few. Her surprising passing most likely made her the most famous musician to overdose in recent decades.

Amy’s powerful voice, unique tone, her ability to express emotions through music, and heart-wrenching lyrics, quickly turned her into one of the most famous singers of her time.

Factors such as her unique personality, self-destructive behavior, and a tendency towards emotional instability were a recurring part of her career. It is worth adding that her drug consumption continually grew -as she became more and more popular herself.

Amy Winehouse died on 23 July 2011 at 27 years old. Winehouse was known to consume and abuse hard substances such as heroin, cocaine, and ketamine, and other drugs, throughout her music career. However, the autopsy done shortly after her death revealed that the vocalist had indeed died of alcohol poisoning.

3. Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin is yet another famous 60s counterculture music icon known for the overdose that led to her demise. During her relatively short music career, she became one of the biggest rock stars of her time.

Janis Joplin is arguably the first female artist to become internationally recognized. From the start, Joplin fought for women’s liberation, and racial equality in the U.S. and this made her a controversial figure in the eyes of politicians.

Joplin was found dead by her representative on 4 October 1970 because of a heroin overdose and was most likely involved in binge drinking beforehand.

4. Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley is without a doubt one of the most celebrated vocalists of all time. He is still known as one of the most important celebrities of the 20th Century because of his versatility, unique voice, physical appearance, and tremendous charisma, which are just a few of his qualities.

Although conspiracy theories exist surrounding Elvis's death, including the truthfulness of this event, autopsies done in 1977 revealed approximately 14 types of medications in Elvis’s body.

Many of Elvis's friends acknowledged his drug addiction, and the results of several autopsies performed on the musician are undeniable. That is why a drug overdose is the main reason for Elvis Presley’s death.

5. Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison is another figure that should without a doubt appear on any list of famous singers who overdosed. The leader and musical composer of The Doors became a star whose song lyrics are considered to be high quality and have psychedelic melodies.

Jim Morrison died of a heroin overdose in 1972 at 27 years old and forms a part of the group of rock stars like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Brian Jones (founding member of The Rolling Stones), and Kurt Cobain (Lead singer of Nirvana), who are all members of the “27 club”, since all of these musicians coincidentally died at this age.

6. Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop,” had a successful career that for lasted decades. His contributions to popular music along with his influence on a large number of current pop stars is undeniable.

His very early success with his brothers and history of child abuse marked his career for over 40 years and led him to consume and abuse medications.

Jackson died while getting ready for a concert,on 25 June 2009 from propofol and benzodiazepines poisoning, which caused his heart to stop.

Backstage With Janis Joplin: Doubts, Drugs And Compassion

Cooke was Janis Joplin's first and only road manager, from 1967 until her death from a heroin overdose in 1970. He was the one who found her body. In a new memoir, On the Road With Janis Joplin, he details the electrifying performances — and the drugs — that marked Joplin's tours.

When he started the job, Cooke says, he didn't know anything about managing a rock band. In 1967, he was fresh out of Harvard when legendary rock manager Albert Grossman asked him to fly out to San Francisco to help manage this up-and-coming singer and her psychedelic blues rock band Big Brother & the Holding Company.

Joplin switched bands over the years, but kept Cook as her road manager — so he witnessed the changes that came with each new backing group.

"Janis' progression from one band to the next was really the dramatic arc of the three years that I was with her," he tells NPR's Eric Westervelt. "Three years, three bands — and it actually resolves into three dramatic acts."

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Interview Highlights

On becoming Joplin's road manager, with no managing experience

There was no pool of qualified candidates at that point, and when [legendary rock manager] Albert Grossman started managing [Bob] Dylan and when he came up to Cambridge, Mass., where I was playing bluegrass and old-time music and he had a road manager with him in the spring of '64, we thought "Far out!" You know, here's this guy who drives the Ford station wagon, he makes sure there's some bottles of Beaujolais wine in there. Dylan doesn't have to do anything but get on stage and play! And so Albert was looking for someone who could do the job but didn't know he could do the job.

On the three acts he witnessed in his time with Joplin

Many people may think that her last act was her most difficult, but . it was that middle year with the Kozmic Blues Band. She left Big Brother, whom she loved, because she saw a greater challenge, which was: Could she hold center stage and the spotlight alone as a solo artist with a backup band? And in that year, she felt that she was failing, and when she and Albert Grossman decided to terminate the Kozmic Blues Band after the contracted gigs were played, she felt that she was a failure — that her attempt to go out as a solo artist had failed. And this led to her darkest period and the worst excesses in terms of alcohol and drugs.

On what he wants the public to know about Joplin

What people know is the dynamic personality on stage, and then in addition to that, the kind of brash woman of the streets, which was part of the public personality that she projected. But, you know, she was also sweet and vulnerable and compassionate, and she could be this little girl who was so full of doubt about whether she was doing a good enough job that she could come offstage with this tumultuous ovation happening out there and saying, "Did I do OK?"

But smart and funny, I think most of all, are the parts that I'd like people to know were an important part of her personality.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Heath Ledger was found dead on Jan. 22, 2008, in his New York apartment. He was 28. It was determined that the "Brokeback Mountain" and "Dark Knight" actor had died from a potent combination of painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping pills.

Janis Joplin's Drug-Related Death Isn't as Cut-and-Dry as You Think

Janis Joplin was one of the most gifted and talented singer-songwriters of the 1960s. With a powerhouse voice and understated, no-frills look, Janis commanded every crowd she was in front of, from her early days as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company to her breakthrough solo career hits like "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," "Maybe," and "Piece of My Heart" skyrocketed her to fame and landed her a spot in the lineup at Woodstock in August 1969 - but just a year later, Janis's intense flame would burn out.

Janis was a habitual drug user and heavy drinker throughout her career it was widely known that she took methamphetamine and occasionally used heroin along with other psychoactive drugs. While she did have bouts of sobriety, her addiction ultimately ended her life. After Janis failed to show up for a recording session in LA on Oct. 4, 1970, her road manager, John Cooke, drove to the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood, where she was staying, and saw her distinctively painted Porsche in the parking lot. He entered Janis's room and found her lying dead on the floor next to the bed. Her official cause of death was a heroin overdose, "possibly compounded by alcohol" (Janis's drink of choice was Southern Comfort). Though Janis was heavily into heroin at that point, those close to her believed that she was given a dose that was more potent than normal that accidentally killed her, especially since several of her dealer's other customers overdosed that same week.

Her death hit the music community hard rock legend Jimi Hendrix had died just 16 days earlier, and they both happened to be 27 years old when they passed. The last song Janis ever recorded was "Mercedes Benz," which would go on to be included on her posthumous album Pearl in 1971. It became the biggest-selling album of her career and also featured her biggest hit single, "Me and Bobby McGee."

Watch the video: Janis Joplin: Drug Overdose


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