Happy Birthday Janis Joplin

Happy Birthday Janis Joplin


As I grow older, I am discovering many things about myself. My wants and needs seem to be heightened now, and I’ve been paying close attention to the things that make me happy more than ever before. Sometimes it takes me some time to uncover these realizations, but the second I do, I feel an overpowering sense of calmness; a peaceful recognition of how essential these feelings are for my overall growth. Happy Birthday Janis: A Tribute to the Life of Janis Joplin last Friday night at First Avenue was one of those revealing moments for me, as the emotion-filled performances struck me with inspiration and excitement for my future.

Today is Janis Joplin’s birthday. She would have been 75 years old if she didn’t disturbingly pass away at age 27 in 1970. My best friend Shelby from High School shares a birthday with Janis, so to celebrate her own 27th, I brought her along to the concert with me. She was mystified by the music and loved how everyone we mingled with was in such a great mood. From the coat check to the front row, everyone was smiling and radiating positive energy. The first half of the show was dedicated to Janis Joplin’s Pearl — an album that was recorded and released when Janis was the same age Shelby and I are now. It’s insane how connected we feel to her music at the same age she was when she created it, and it’s sad to me that her life was cut short by what seems to have been such a passionate time in her life. As we listened and related to the lyrics from Pearl live, Shelby and I couldn’t imagine this being the last year of our lives. We have much more to say, as I’d like to believe Janis did.

The 11th annual Happy Birthday Janis event all started with local performer Jill Mikelson, who starred in the Ordway Center’s “Love, Janis” in 2007. Through the music of Janis Joplin, the event was the perfect celebration of women in rock and roll. Mikelson was accompanied by some of the Twin Cities finest female vocalists, including Debra G, Katy Hays and Erin Schwab. They weren’t just singing their favorite songs up on that stage — they were pouring their hearts out; unleashing completely to the melody of the music that changed their lives so greatly. It was extremely emotional and special to watch.

Through their impressive vocal talent and carefree stage presence, the ladies proved how the songs off Pearl are deeply reflective of Janis Joplin’s truest self. For that reason alone, I am attracted to it. The ability she had, and so many of my favorite artists from the 60s and 70s have, to honestly convey her feelings through music — no matter how messed up they may be — is is simply WHY I listen. It makes sense why I don’t have such an equally strong connection with today’s music when compared to the classics. Janis’s birthday celebration had an explosive start, as Katy Hays started to scream out Move Over – a loud and proud ultimatum meant for a relationship that’s not quite right. We’ve all been there, and no one likes to be played by someone they care about. The blues is the perfect outlet to express that kind of hurt in a way that can make you feel good about overcoming it. A flood of thoughts began to fill my mind as I listened to the lyrics, then in an instant, they transformed into pure psychedelic energy as vocalist Katy Hays hit her first soulful high note. It really is impossible not to react to this kind of music.

In general, music has been really intense for me lately. After the most stressful year of my life with my mother being in and out of the hospital, I’ll admit I lost touch with myself a bit. But now things are starting to get better, and I’ve been listening to music much more than usual, something I always used to do growing up. I’ve noticed that I am much happier when music is in my life, and I don’t ever want to lose that. More often than not, I listen to music to sing along to it. The second song of the evening was a one that everyone loves to sing along to: Cry Baby, preformed by Debra G. It’s the most unique cover I think I’ve ever heard. Janis really took that song, and its lyrics in particular, to heart and made it her own.

Music has the power to make me feel all sorts of emotions, but it takes a very special song to make me feel sexy. Half Moon, however, didn’t have to try that hard. As much as Jill Mikelson’s performance had me locked in the moment, I was still thinking about someone else. Sometimes that distraction annoys me, but this time it didn’t bother me at all, which is what I find so exciting about it. The lyric ‘Your love brings life to me’ reminded me how I will always be a true believer in love, or at least a connection with someone on an exclusive level. I take my relationships seriously, and even if were just close friends, I value solidarity.

As I start to creep up on my own 27th birthday in April, the age Janis Joplin was when Pearl was released, I feel excited to embrace these feelings of change that seem to intensify as I grow older. I definitely think that music is speaking to me louder now than it ever has before. That realization kicked in most profoundly as the last song off Pearl began to fill First Ave: Get It While You Can. The words of the song clearly translated in my brain from song lyrics to some much needed advice. Why would I stop doing something I enjoy? What sense does that make? I’ve finally reached an age that is allowing me to be confident in my own decisions, without fear or an overshadow of worry, and though I know I have a long life of learning ahead, I feel my happiest as I approach the age of Pearl.