Janis Joplin rose to fame as the lead singer of the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. She joined up with the band in 1966 in the Haight-Ashbury community of San Francisco. Following a breakthrough performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, the band was signed to Columbia Records in 1967. At the end of 1968, after 2 years together, Janis Joplin decided to leave the group.
Shortly after leaving Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin formed a new soul revue band called the Kozmic Blues Band. By early 1969, Janis Joplin was receiving national attention as she appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes and the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine with the title reading “Janis Joplin: The Judy Garland of Rock?” As her star continued to brighten, Janis Joplin went on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first and only time on March 16, 1969.
Janis Joplin and her band took to the stage in The Ed Sullivan Theatre opening with an upbeat performance of “Raise Your Hand.” She then followed that with a performance of “Maybe, Maybe, Maybe” set to a psychedelic background. During the slow, bluesy number, Janis was soulful, passionate, and almost exhausting, putting every ounce of herself into the song. The performance truly exemplified Janis Joplin’s style and has gone down as one of the legendary Ed Sullivan Show performances of all-time.
Following Janis Joplin’s Ed Sullivan Show appearance, her popularity only continued to grow. That year, she went on to a European tour, started working on a new album and performed at the legendary Woodstock festival with other great bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana.
Just as Janis Joplin reached the heights of her success, we lost her. While in Los Angeles putting the finishing touches on her fourth album Pearl, Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose at Hollywood’s Landmark Hotel. Her death was another blow to the music world, as Jimi Hendrix had died just weeks earlier.
Although she left us when she just seemed to be hitting her stride, Janis Joplin’s impact on music, specifically the blues and rock n roll, will be felt for ages. A true music icon, Janis Joplin set the precedent for female rock vocalists both in her sound and style. As music journalist Ellen Wills noted, “Joplin belonged to that select group of pop figures who mattered as much for themselves as for their music.”