Coming to DVD from writer/director Amy Berg, Sony Music and MVD Visual is the compelling documentary about a woman who sang to the world her way with “Janis Joplin – Janis: Little Girl Blue.”
Cat Power narrates this documentary about Janis Joplin from her humble Texas beginnings to her rise through the music scene in San Francisco. Knowing her parents wanted Janis to be a schoolteacher, she took off for San Fran in the 1966 to join the band Big Brother and the Holding Company. It was at the Avalon Ballroom that Joplin would make her first public appearance.
Joplin also had a battle with drugs and alcohol but tried several times to keep out of her life. She would lose many friends to drug use but it still didn’t help her addiction.
Performing at the Monterey Pop Festival, Joplin immediately got notice for her clearly unique singing voice. She would soon be performing at Woodstock and then the Festival Express tour. It would be her hits Bye Bye Baby, Call on Me and Coo Coo along with Down on Me would feature Joplin’s lead vocals.
Joplin signed with Mainstream Records and would then sign with Albert Grossman who she had met at Monterey Pop. Joplin and the band made their first television debut on The Dick Cavett Show and Cavett continued a private friendship with the songstress sharing his personal, although at times private, thoughts about it all.
With the success of Joplin and the band it is usually followed by problems as she walked away from Big Brother and moved on to the Kozmic Blues Band and at the same time she began doing hard drugs again. When her new group released their first works The Kozmic Blues, it did not see the same critical acclaim as her previous band.
Performing at Woodstock would be the first time her heroine and alcohol addiction would be seen by a large number of her fans. It didn’t stop the fans from being thrilled with her performance even though her voice was cracking and winded. Taking time off to go to Brazil, Joplin stopped all her drinking and drug use and took up with David Niehause. Her happiness wasn’t to last as Niehause refused to put up with the drug use when it began again.
Joplin decided to return home for her ten year high school class reunion and viewers get a chance to see some of the deep feelings this young woman had trying to be just Janis. Speaking about her return to Port Arthur for the occasion she tells a reporter that no one asked her to prom. Although she was joking toward the end, I didn’t feel as if it was a joke.
Returning to Los Angeles, Joplin began working with producer Paul Rothchild. Among the songs released was Kris Kristofferson’s Me and Bobby McGee and the song Move Over written by Joplin. When she failed to show up for a recording session on October 4, 1970, Rothchild sent road manager John Cooke to the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood where he found her dead. Cooke said, “When I opened the door I had the simple and direct feeling that nobody was here. I came around the corner and saw Janis lying by the bed. But that feeling of nobody is here is right.”
That is what this documentary brings to those who loved the music of Janis Joplin. It is an in depth look at those who were truly part of her life from beginning to end. Sharing their stories, emotions and love for a woman who had so much to give to the world through her music and unique style of singing. The letters are so revealing to her family knowing that they weren’t fond of the lifestyle Joplin had chosen.
Hearing directly from family and friends is heartbreaking but listening to her own mother read letters from a fan after her death will bring you to tears. Thoughts from Kris Kristofferson, Bob Weir, D.A. Pennybaker, Pink, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Ethridge, as well as her band mates, former lovers, friends and the Joplin Family are all laid out bare. Finally a piece from John Lennon on what can be done about the drug use then. Lennon’s answer is more relevant today than he could have ever imagined.
The DVD includes the Special Feature of Deleted and Extended Scenes, Big Brother Acapella, Avalon vs. The Filmore, Influences and Walk of Fame Ceremony.
This is a documentary that is meant to be experiences by all those who came to appreciate and even love Joplin and what she brought to women in music. She did not have a ‘genre’; she had a soul that was slashed open for everyone to hear without holding back. That is what makes her an original never to be duplicated.
In the end — her voice and her music changed it all forever!