Janis Joplin embodied the spirit of the 1960s, from her unrivaled roaring voice to her carefree attitude and eclectic wardrobe. In a short amount of time, she went from a rural Texan girl who sang the blues, to the voice of her generation. Sadly her mantra of “live fast, die young” was all too real, and her life was cut short at the age of only 27—cementing her name among the “Forever 27 Club” along with Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones. Joplin accomplished more in 27 years than most people accomplish their whole life, which is why she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and is forever a part of American music history.
1943 – January 19, Janis Lyn is born to Seth and Dorothy Joplin in Port Arthur, Texas.
1950 – Joplin’s parents notice that Janis, who is a Bluebird junior Girl Scout, craves the spotlight much more than her siblings.
1958 – After reading about the Beat Generation in Time magazine, Joplin is inspired by poets like Jack Kerouac.
1960 – Joplin, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, begins singing the blues with fellow classmates. She is bullied for mingling with African Americans in her conservative community.
1962 – Joplin studies art at Lamar State College of Technology and University of Texas at Austin, and there, the school newspaper publishes a story about her entitled “She Dares to Be Different.” She stands out because she occasionally attends class barefoot and wears jeans instead of a dress. At school, Joplin performs with a folk group called The Waller Creek Boys.
Circa December – Joplin records her first composition ever, “What Good Can Drinkin’ Do.”
1963 – January, Joplin, fed up with Texas, hitchhikes to San Francisco, California to join the growing hippie community.
1964 – In San Francisco, Joplin links up with future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and together, they record several songs. Joplin becomes romantically involved with both women and men including Jae Whittaker and Peter de Blanc.
1965 – Joplin, through long nights of indulgences, withers to 88 pounds. Her friends intervene and convince her to return home to Texas temporarily to clean up from drug use and her affinity for Southern Comfort whiskey.
1966 – Former Texan and band manager Chet Helms insists that Joplin take over as lead singer of established group Big Brother & The Holding Company.
June 4, Now centered and rejuvenated, Joplin returns to San Francisco.
June 10, Members of Big Brother & The Holding Company, now headed by Joplin, play their first gig together. Later, the band regularly plays alongside Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and many other psychedelic bands.
1967 – June 17, Janis Joplin and Big Brother & The Holding Company play a pivotal and defining performance at Monterey Pop Festival, achieving national stardom.
August 23, Big Brother & The Holding Company’s self-titled album is released.
1968 – August 12, Big Brother & The Holding Company’s album Cheap Thrills is released, featuring a controversial cover drawn by underground comic artist Robert Crumb. It features some of her biggest cover hits like “Piece of my Heart,” “Ball and Chain” and “Summertime.”
December 1, Big Brother & The Holding Company plays its final performance. After that performance, Joplin uses several other band names such as Janis Joplin & the Joplinaires or Janis Joplin & the Janis Joplin Review before settling on the Kozmic Blues Band.
1969 – March 16, Joplin & the Kozmic Blues Band perform live on The Ed Sullivan Show, one of the most coveted primetime slots on television at the time.
April 19, Rolling Stone magazine gushes about Joplin, writing that “no singer” can accomplish what she has in so little time.
August 16, Along with artists like Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana, Joplin steals the show at Woodstock with her incredible charisma on-stage. While she arrives excessively late, up to half a million people in the audience are mesmerized by her defining performance.
September 11, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, Joplin’s only solo album released while she was alive, is released.
1970 – October 1, Joplin records her own composition “Mercedes Benz” in one take, just days before her death. It would be covered later on by Elton John and The Supremes.
October 4, Joplin overdoses on heroin while staying at the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood, California. It’s only two weeks after Jimi Hendrix died, who was also 27 at the time. According to a book by road manager John Cooke, Joplin and many other people in Hollywood that week overdosed from a bad batch of heroin that was going around. Her ashes are scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
October 29, Immediately after her death, Rolling Stone magazine puts Joplin on the cover.
1971 – January 11, Janis Joplin and the Full Tilt Boogie Band release Joplin’s final recording Pearl posthumously.
February 27, Pearl hits number one on the Billboard 200 and stays there for nine weeks.
March 20, Joplin hits number one on the Billboard U.S. Singles Chart with “Me and Bobby McGee,” a song written by Kris Kristofferson and songwriter Fred Foster. The song is ranked number 148 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.