Janis, Drugs, Woodstock and Vietnam

In 1971, Peter brought home the newly released album “Pearl” an LP of Janis Joplin and her songs. Neither of us was that familiar with Janis Joplin or her music. I do remember watching one of the late talk shows one night. She was on and they discussed her blues singing, which to my taste was a little too frenetic, and her drug use. She said she needed the drugs to work herself up to the fever pitch her audience demanded. In retrospect, she was playing at a level of intensity that she couldn’t sustain.

Anyway, her new album featured her song “Me and Bobby McGee” which Peter and I really liked. Kris Kristofferson, who wrote the song, had recorded it as more of a softer and slower folk song. You can find both versions below. Kristofferson said he liked Janis Joplin’s version better. Maybe so, but I understood the lyrics better when he sang it. Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970 during the recording of “Pearl” and it was released after her death in January 1971: so many of the pop singers of that generation died of drug overdoses. Drugs were definitely one of the scourges of our time.

There’s a lot about Janis Joplin on the Internet. She was at Woodstock in 1969, the year we were married. Watching all the images on the Internet was a bit of a downer, as I don’t remember it as a happy time. It was also the year we landed on the moon. Peter started grad school that year so we felt the full effect of all the campus angst over the Vietnam War. The ROTC office was fire bombed. William Buckley was invited to speak on campus and was shouted down. It was a turbulent and uneasy time.

My son, when in High School said to us at supper one night, “You two can’t tell me that you were in college in the 60’s and didn’t take drugs.”  Peter leaned over and said, ”You have to face the fact that your parents were nerds.”  We were. Also, we were both in school situations with zero tolerance for mind-altering substances. Then, when Peter was in grad school, we were a little older and newly married and on to other things and kind of skirted ahead of all that.

Janis Joplin sings “Me and Bobby McGee,” www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7hk-hI0JKw

 Kris Kristofferson sings “Me and Bobby McGee,” www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-J7mLyD3yc


3 thoughts on “Janis, Drugs, Woodstock and Vietnam”

  1. Hi Joanne- this blog struck a chord with me. As Sally can immediately attest, I am a long time Janis Joplin fan and addict. Watching the video clip of her you attached to your blog, I couldn’t help being hit by the irony of one of the sequential captions citing she died of a “heroine” overdose. What a remarkable spelling error inserting a profound wisdom into the proceedings by unintentional mistake, or was it? Glad to see our foursome friendship of such endurance is founded on harmonics beyond those that have been visible these many years.
    Love, Al

  2. Hi Joanne,

    This is certainly unknown territory for me. I remember pictures of Woodstock and thinking what a silly thing for all those people to do. I definitely was not into large crowds, especially, when there’s hot weather and what I consider something that’s called music that is perpetrated by people who only know to turn up an amp until it makes the sound as unpleasant as possible. You’ll have to forgive me because I grew up with the Kingston Trio, the Brothers Four, the Four Freshman (probably my favorite), etc. Music for which one can understand the words, has complex chords, and sounds that don’t break your eardrums. To make a point, my all-time favorite musical is Forever Plaid. I don’t get a chance to rant about so-called popular music very often so you’ll have to forgive me. To me a guitar is a backup rhythm instrument. Anyway, enough of that. Joan and I think we’re pretty lucky to have gotten a bit older before all of that happened. I remember I was scared to death of drugs so I guess that was a good thing. As we got a bit older, our drug of choice, one could say, was alcohol and that happened only very rarely. We must have been right at the nerd cusp. Janis Joplin is a name I remember but I certainly couldn’t put a face with it. I also remember all the campus bombings and Vietnam protests. I always thought it was just kids that didn’t want to go there. It was a pretty scary time to be on a college campus. I also remember that.

    Good to read your missive. We are beginning to look forward to the next installment.

  3. Hi, Joanne,
    Ah, yes. Woodstock…. we couldn’t understand what the attraction was. All the drugs, nudity, casual sex, etc. Guess we had you beat in the nerdiness department. In 1969 we’d been married seven years, so were an old, staid married couple by then. We bought our first house that year. It was a tri-level, brick and cedar siding home, about 2700 sq. ft. and cost about $39,000 if I remember correctly.
    Stan had finished his PhD by then so we were wanting to start a family. Instead, we adopted a cute puppy dog, a highly intelligent, wonderful mutt from a shelter in Denver. Named her Muggs after a James Thurber dog. And she helped us raise our boys when they came along starting in 1972. Muggs was like Nana in “Peter Pan,” devoted caretaker of Jim and Ned, helper to me–carrying pieces of laundry that I might have dropped on my way to or from the top of the tri-level to or from the laundry room in the basement, bringing the newspaper in from the front walk, chasing off pesky cats who tried valiantly to use our boys’ sand box as their litter box, keeping Stan and me company on our weekend fishing trips when she’d enthusiastically jump into mountain streams and scare the fish away, etc. She helped us move to Los Alamos in 1979 and was our faithful companion until she was 17 in 1986. Was our best dog ever–until more came into our lives later! When the last one died in 2001, it felt as if we’d never find any more as special as they were. So, we’ve been dogless ever since, except for a Goddog who comes once a week to our house with her mom when we play piano together.
    Well, surely blog comments should be short, which this isn’t–and have more relevance to your blog, which this doesn’t. So, I’d better close now and say thanks and tell you that it was great to read your blog and to say we’re looking forward to the next one!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *