Sunday, November 1, 2009

Janis Joplin: Pearl (1970)

Sitting here listening to Pearl and it strikes me, as it always does, what a goddamn tragic thing it is that Janis Joplin is dead. I mean, there have been a lot of premature rock and roll deaths, but I can't think of anyone who strikes me as having gone too soon in the way Janis did. Morrison and Cobain: they were always going to go sooner rather than later. Hendrix: no death wish there, but he'd already gone so far with his art that you can really imagine he just kind of used himself up. Pigpen, Jerry: anytime was too soon for them, but you could hear the long slow decline with each of them, so there was no surprise.

But Janis. She wasn't done by any means. She was just hitting her stride with Pearl. And listen to it: she's so happy on that album, so full of life. And, and, unlike Jimi, you can totally imagine where Janis might have gone from there. I would have loved to hear her Nashville album, her disco album, her underrated minor-label Muscle Shoals album, her synth-heavy '80s contemporary album, her Arista comeback album with guest spots by Lauryn Hill and Santana, her Jack White-produced hipster disc, her Bessie Smith tribute album, her Summer of Love-nostalgic Big Brother reunion tour... She would have done all that, and done it with grace, and it would have been awesome. But instead she's dead. And if that doesn't make you cry, on All Saints' Day, I don't know what will.

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