In her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee bio, Janis Joplin is described as “the greatest white urban blues and soul singer of her generation.” In 1968, she was still forging that voice, having come off a triumphant performance at the Monterey Pop Festival the summer before. Her San Francisco-based group, Big Brother & the Holding Company, charted soon after with their self-titled debut, but it stalled at #60. Their second album, Cheap Thrills, fared better, spending a whopping eight weeks atop the charts. Rolling Stone magazine named it one of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The same week the album launched its chart run, Janis & Co. hit the Billboard Hot 100 with their maiden entry, “Piece of My Heart”. The song peaked at #12, but reached iconic status. It has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and is featured on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of “The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”.
The song was written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns. Erma Franklin, the sister of Rock Hall inductee Aretha Franklin, recorded the song in 1967 and took it to the top ten in the R&B charts. Big Brother & the Holding Company’s rendition a year later has become the definitive version, but it has been notably covered by others, including Dusty Springfield, Sammy Hagar, Faith Hill, and as a duet between Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone.
Joplin embarked on a solo journey after Cheap Thrills, but her days were numbered. A heroin overdose cut her life short at 27 years old on October 4, 1970. 1971’s Pearl and “Me and Bobby McGee” were posthumous #1 hits.
Resources and Related Links:
- Janis Joplin’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
- the DMDB page for Cheap Thrills
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee bio