This afternoon I opened a book I hadn't read in a very long time and found a card a guy had sent with flowers an even longer time ago. The card said: You, me, a bottle of wine, and Janis.
I can't even remember the guy's name, but I remember he was trying, unsuccessfully, to woo me with promises of wine and Janis Joplin music. And, oh, how I remember Janis who uttered a piece of Rock Wisdom that has always stayed with me over the years.
What's Rock Wisdom? It's what I call the profound comments and song passages from the musical geniuses who shaped my Baby Boomer world. Janis was wise, but, in the end, she couldn't see the forest for the trees. She died way too young.
Hellion From Texas
Janis Joplin was a good old girl from Port Arthur, Texas. She was born January 19, 1943, and she died October 4, 1970. If you haven't heard her raw, anguished voice, you've missed something. In the turbulent 1960s, as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company, she took the world by storm.
Today, she's still remembered. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked her #46 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. It took years, but a couple of years ago, her hometown finally did something to recognize her contribution to music. She's celebrated in the Museum of the Gulf Coast located in Port Arthur.
Janis can best be described as a misfit from the day she learned how to talk. Here's her bit of Rock Wisdom that I took to heart: Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.
Profound. Though the same comment has been said by many others before and after Janis, some far more educated and articulate, those two simple sentences seem to shout their meaning.
Drugs or Booze
In an interview once, Janis said, Who needs drugs when there's booze? Sadly, she must have felt she needed the heroin she shot into her veins.
I was sitting at a tiny kitchen table in an Okinawan apartment on a gray October morning when the English language radio news reader reported Janis Joplin, dead at the age of 27 from a drug overdose. Why couldn't she have heeded her own advice?
Events that shatter your false assumption that youth is immortal often get embedded in memory.