Remembering Janis Joplin: Performing With Kozmic Blues Band In 1969
Watch the legendary late vocalist’s captivating performance in Frankfurt, Germany.
Renowned rock vocalist Janis Joplin tragically died at age 27 on this date in 1970. In the decades since her untimely death, Joplin’s legacy has risen to that of true icon status.
While “icon” is often used to describe people of significant stature, a more exact application of the modifier is reserved for those that are visual examples of what they represent. Joplin’s undeniably iconic embodiment of the late 1960s psychedelic rock movement helped place her among the most familiar and lasting figures of the era.
A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Joplin’s prominence was of course driven by her musical talents. Influenced by early Black blues pioneers like Leadbelly, Big Mama Thornton, Bessie Smith and others, Joplin’s blues-infused approach to psychedelic rock is among the most emulated by the many singers she subsequently influenced.
After establishing herself in the eclectic Bay Area scene in the mid-1960s alongside contemporaries like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service, Joplin was still at the precipice of her career when a heroin overdose took her life 52 years ago today.
Early on, Joplin joined Big Brother & The Holding Company, which was born out of the hippie enclave in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco. During her all-too-short career, Joplin made some of the most essential recordings of the era, such as her versions of Big Mama Thorton’s “Ball And Chain,” George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” Kris Kristofferson’s “Me And Bobby McGee,” the Lorraine Ellison popularized “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)” and Erma Franklin’s “Piece Of My Heart.”
Following an exit from Big Brother And The Holding Company, Joplin went on to form The Kozmic Blues Band, with Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew, and others including saxophonist Cornelius “Snooky” Flowers, keyboardists Richard Kermode and Gabriel Mekler, and bassist Brad Campbell (who would later join Joplin in the Full Tilt Boogie Band).
In 1969, Joplin issued her solo LP, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! The record contained the aforementioned “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder),” and additional covers “Maybe” by The Chantrels, “To Love Somebody” by the Bee Gees, “Little Girl Blue” by Rodgers & Hart and two songs written by Nick Gravenites, “Work Me, Lord” and “As Good as You’ve Been to This World.” Two songs written by Joplin appeared on the album, “One Good Man” and the Mekler co-write “Kozmic Blues.”
In advance of the album’s release, Joplin and The Kozmic Blues Band toured Europe in spring 1969. Among the stops was an April 14, 1969, engagement at Jahrhunderthalle in Frankfurt in what at the time was West Germany. The venue, which hosted Jimi Hendrix in 1969 and the Grateful Dead three years later on their famed Europe ‘72 Tour, is now called myticket Jahrhunderthalle (which translates to “Century Hall”) and continues to hold concerts and stage other types of performances.
Joplin’s 1969 Jahrunderthalle appearance was supported by Andrew, Campbell, Flowers and Kermode, along with drummer Roy Markowitz, trumpeter Luis Gasca and saxophonist Terry Clements. Footage of the performance begins with a cover of Eddie Floyd’s “Raise Your Hand.” Joplin can also be seen leading her bandmates on “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder),” “Maybe,” “Summertime” and “Ball & Chain,” as well as the Flower-composed “Me.”
The performance ended with “Piece Of My Heart” as much of the German audience swarmed the stage while Joplin continued to perform amongst the commotion. Watch the footage, interspersed with interviews, below: