Remembering Janis Joplin: Performing With The Grateful Dead

By Andy Kahn Oct 4, 2016 1:10 pm PDT

  • All I know is something like a bird
  • within her sang
  • All I know she sang a little while
  • and then flew on

Robert Hunter – “Bird Song”

Today is the sad anniversary of the death of Janis Joplin who passed away at the all-too-young age of just 27 on this date in 1970. A truly singular voice and equally one-of-a-kind personality, Joplin possessed an unmatched spirit that transcended the music she left behind.

The Texas-born psychedelic-blues songstress found a home in San Francisco where she established herself among the now iconic figures of the late-1960s Bay Area rock scene. In remembrance of Janis, here’s a look back at her relationship with another legendary San Francisco-based rock act through a series of times she performed with the Grateful Dead.

Joplin had a brief romance with founding Grateful Dead member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and was friendly with the other members of the band with whom she lived nearby. Shortly after her death the Dead debuted the Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia original “Bird Song” which was penned in her honor. Janis sat-in with the group on at least two occasions: June 7, 1969 at the Fillmore West and again on July 16, 1970 at the Euphoria Ballroom in San Rafael, California. In both instances she helped Pigpen sing “Turn On Your Lovelight” and they can be streamed below:

Captured in the documentary film Festival Express, Joplin again spent time with Dead during the the 1970 concert tour across Canada that also included The Band, Buddy Guy, Sha Na Na and Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. The clips below are from the film, with the first featuring Janis with Grateful Dead guitarists Garcia and Bob Weir along with The Band’s Rick Danko and others having a substance-aided singalong on the train, watch here:

And here’s an outtake from the film of Garcia and Joplin on stage together thanking the promoters:
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