Listen to Janis Joplin Break In Her New Soul/R&B Band Live in 1969
On Feb. 12, 1969, Joplin had just abandoned Big Brother and the Holding Company and was starting out with the soul-heavy Kozmic Blues Band.Photo: Getty Images Music Features Janis Joplin
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Inside the pressurized rock landscape of the late 1960s, Janis Joplin found and filled her own space with a feminine rock ‘n’ roll psychedelia all her own—first with her band Big Brother and the Holding Company, which she joined in San Francisco in 1966, then with the Kozmic Blues Band, and finally with the Full Tilt Boogie band. It was never an easy ride. On Feb. 12, 1969, Joplin was in the midst of a shaky transitional period between her two backing bands when she arrived in New York for a show at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East.
Joplin’s final show with Big Brother and the Holding Company had been in early December, 1968, and by January of 1969, she was already onstage with the Kozmic Blues Band, a horn-heavy crew designed to maximize the soul and R&B in her style. Besides adjusting to the lineup changes (only guitarist Sam Andrew had been held over from Big Brother), Joplin was dealing with personal struggles, battling early stages of drug addiction and exhaustive touring. But she managed to deliver a forceful and provocative performance, offering a number of covers, including the Bee Gee’s hit “To Love Somebody” and Eddie Floyd’s soulful “Raise Your Hand,” with which she opened the show. Joplin also showcased a few of her old Big Brother hits—her take on the Gershwins’ “Summertime” (with a stunning instrumental intro), Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball & Chain” and “Piece of My Heart,” all from 1968’s Cheap Thrills.
Joplin’s performance was nothing short of incendiary, even with—or maybe because of—the struggle and uncertainty lurking around every corner. Listen to these exclusive recordings of Janis Joplin performing on this date 49 years ago. And Check out this Crawdaddy review of a Joplin show later that year.