In advance of this evening’s broadcast premiere of American Masters—Janis: Little Girl Blue—a revealing new look at the legendary singer-songwriter—Paste has a never-before-seen outtake. The film, airing tonight at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on PBS, features narrator Chan Marshall—a.k.a. indie rocker Cat Power—who reads Janis Joplin’s letters and performs “A Woman Left Lonely” from Joplin’s final studio album Pearl, released posthumously on January 11, 1971. This year marks the album’s 45th anniversary.
In this exclusive clip, Joplin’s former lover David Niehaus recalls the night some Hells Angels crashed her house.
In other never-before-seen territory, Tuesday’s broadcast includes an extended film cut with additional archival performance footage and new interviews with Joplin’s sister Laura and brother Michael, along with musicians influenced by Janis: Alecia Moore (a.k.a. Pink), Juliette Lewis, Melissa Etheridge and Marshall herself. Original interviews with Joplin’s friends and fellow musicians, including Big Brother and the Holding Company bandmates Peter Albin, Sam Andrew and Dave Getz, Bob Weir (Grateful Dead), Country Joe McDonald (Country Joe and the Fish), Kris Kristofferson, Dick Cavett and Clive Davis fuel the enduring enigma surrounding Joplin. That said, Joplin’s own words tell much of the story through a series of letters she wrote to her parents—many of them made public for the first time—and read by Marshall.
Oscar-nominated writer, director and producer Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil, West of Memphis, Prophet’s Prey) spent seven years on the project, which includes new audio and video of Joplin in concert and in the studio (some shot by D.A. Pennebaker, no less), as well as rare footage from Joplin’s return to her hometown of Port Arthur, Texas for her 10-year high school reunion.
Launched in 1986, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards, 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, and two Producers Guild Awards, among other accolades. The series’ 30th anniversary season on PBS continues Friday, May 27 at 9 p.m. (check local listings) with The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End.
The DVD and Blu-ray will be available May 4 via FilmRise, and the documentary’s official album companion, Janis: Little Girl Blue, is available now digitally and on CD via Columbia/Legacy Recordings. In the meantime, check out the above clip.