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Janis Joplin, one of the most influential women singers of the late 1960s, first came to the attention of rock fans as the vocalist for the San Francisco, California-based band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. She was compared in her life to music greats like blues artist Bessie Smith and soul singer Aretha Franklin, most critics agree that she was the main reason for the group's success with songs like "Piece of My Heart" and "Summertime". Renowned for her performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, and later for her solo appearance at the Woodstock festival in 1969, Joplin nevertheless failed to achieve a chart-topping single until her rendition of country composer Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" was released posthumously in 1971.
Janis Joplin was born January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas and died October 4, 1970, in Hollywood, California. Her father was a canning factory worker and her mother was a registrar at a business college.  Though her family was middle-class, as a teenager she showed signs of the unconventional woman she would become. She was something of a loner, and, unlike her siblings and neighborhood peers, she listened to folk and blues music. Joplin's favorite artists included Odetta, Leadbelly, and Bessie Smith, and she was greatly influenced by them in her own vocal style. By the time she was seventeen, she had decided to become a singer, and left home. At first Joplin found work in country and western clubs in Houston and other Texas cities. She gigged at the Ace Of Clubs on Spencer Highway in Pasadena, and was a regular at Sunday jam sessions from Baytown to Galveston. She played at Maribelle's in Seabrook in the early 60's on a regular basis. She formed the goal of saving enough money from her gigs for bus fare to California, and after a few years she accomplished this and arrived on the Pacific coast. Joplin enrolled in several different colleges while singing folk songs for little money, but her attempts at continuing her education never lasted long. She also tried living in various communes, and eventually settled in San Francisco for a few years. Ironically, a disheartened Joplin went back to Texas in early 1966, right before a friend of hers, Chet Helms, became manager of a new rock group called Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band needed a female vocalist, and Helms thought of Joplin. He contacted her and convinced her to return to San Francisco. Though Joplin had not had much previous experience singing rock music, the combination of her gravelly, bluesy voice with Big Brother's hard rock sound was a success. The group quickly became popular in the San Francisco area, and by the time the Monterey International Pop Festival took place in 1967 in Monterey, California, Big Brother and the Holding Company were a featured attraction. Joplin's performances at this festival and at Woodstock in 1969 are considered by many specialists in the music of the late 1960s to have been classic moments in the history of rock. Soon, Joplin and the rest of the band were in demand on a national scale. On two tours, they visited Houston's Coliseum twice. Joplin left Big Brother to go solo in 1968, soon after the group recorded their second album, Cheap Thrills, for Columbia. The first group of musicians Joplin recruited to back up her solo career was dubbed, the Kozmic Blues Band; with them she released her first album on Columbia, "I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama". Though it contained no overwhelmingly successful single, Kozmic Blues went gold, and Joplin's popularity as a concert performer continued. After a brief reappearance with Big Brother and the Holding Company in early 1970, she formed yet another back up group, the Full-Tilt Boogie Band. They played on Joplin's last album, 1970's Pearl (the nickname the singer's closest friends called her). Besides her acclaimed version of Before Pearl could be released, Joplin was found dead  from an overdose of heroin.