Janis Joplin: Icon And Inspiration

Janis Joplin: Icon And Inspiration

janis joplin
1967 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Malcolm Lubliner/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

That voice - high, husky, earthy, explosive - remains among the most distinctive and galvanizing in pop history. But Janis Joplin didn't merely possess a great instrument; she threw herself into every syllable, testifying from the very core of her being. 

She claimed the blues, soul, gospel, country and rock with unquestionable authority and verve, fearlessly inhabiting psychedelic guitar jams, back-porch roots and everything in between. Her volcanic performances left audiences stunned and speechless, while her sexual magnetism, world-wise demeanor and flamboyant style shattered every stereotype about female artists - and essentially invented the "rock mama" paradigm. 

Janis was “one of the boys” at a time where a woman that rocked-out, got drunk and high with the men in the band was unheard of. Her influence as a songwriter, performing artist and revolutionary is still relevant as generations of female artists cite her as an inspiration. Her peers were Hendix and Morrison, and she kept up with them, until of course it was too much for all of them. 


Her creative genius was in her ability to connect with audience, so genuine and so raw that her openness and insecurity ultimately lead to alcohol and drug addiction and her death in October 1970, of a heroin overdose.

Rolling Stone Mag has listed Janis Joplin at #28 of the Top 100 rock singers of all time.


Since the very beginning, from an early age, Janis was a fan of blues. Her inspirations included singers like Odetta, Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Billie Holiday, and Leadbelly. At the height of her musical career, her performance and singing styles would be influenced by other blues female singers like Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, and Otis Redding. 

Her legacy lives through every artist that has mimicked her raspy singing style since the 70s, notably Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin through to 2000’s pop mega-star P!nk who cites Janis as one of the reasons she started singing.

In terms of a personality, she was a bolshy, fun, and brave woman who challenged women's images and accepted none.  Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett, Liz Phair, and almost every female rock star since has been indebted to her. She opened the door for women to behave in a way that suited them, not the status quo.

Here’s a great playlist on Spotify called ‘I’m Every Woman’ featuring many female artists who took inspiration from the one and only Janis Joplin.

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