By Kimberly Barbour
Special to the Herald
Music. Whether it's on the drive to work, while cleaning house, doing homework or studying, we are constantly plugged into the world of music, and rock 'n' roll is one genre that transcends generations.
When one thinks of classic rock 'n' roll, one might think of the Beatles, The Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin. One star that the music industry lost too soon, and we celebrate 45 years after her untimely death, is Janis Joplin. With a career that tragically ended after less than a decade, Joplin changed rock 'n' roll with her unique sound, and paved the way for female rock musicians everywhere.
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Janis Joplin was born Jan. 19, 1943, in a small Texas town. Growing up, Joplin often described herself as a misfit amongst her peers; painting, reading and singing blues and folk music. It was not until 1962 that Joplin recorded her first song, "What Good Can Drinkin' Do."
Throughout the 1960s, Joplin pushed the musical envelope and chal
lenged the typical gender role stereotypes of the music industry. With hits like "Piece of my Heart," "Cry Baby" and "Me and Bobby McGee," she broke into the boys club of rock 'n' roll and forged her own path. With her bluesy voice and inimitable tone, she proved that women can be rock stars. Sadly, 45 years ago, on Oct. 4, 1970, Joplin was found dead of a heroin overdose at 27 years of age. Although her career was brief, she had a lasting effect on the world of rock 'n' roll, influencing such artists as Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac.
Joplin's music, and her legacy, can still be enjoyed today, whether it's on the radio or at your local public library. The Manatee County Public Library System has a large selection of music biographies, including those about Joplin and other female rock sensations. Read the 2014 biography "On the Road with Janis Joplin" by John Byrne Cooke. Cooke was Joplin's road manager and friend and was with her from her rise in the music industry to her tragic last days. He focuses on putting her music in the context of the times and explaining the reasons for her drinking and drug use. The 1960's San Francisco music scene comes alive in this intimate, well-written tribute.
Other biographies about Joplin include "Buried Alive: the Biography of Janis Joplin" by Myra Friedman, "Love, Janis" by Laura Joplin (her younger sister) and "Scars of Sweet Paradise: the Life and Times of Janis Joplin" by Alice Echols.
The library system also has several Joplin's albums on CD including "The Collection," "Pearl," "18 Essential Songs" and "I Got dem ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!"
The library system's "Lunch, Listen, and Learn" series is presented at our branches and highlights local musicians. One musician to watch is Manatee County's own Undine Shorey, who rocks the electric violin and has performed at several "Lunch, Listen, and Learn" programs. Shorey, like Joplin, is paving her own way in the music industry with a sound all her own.
A new library catalog launches the first week of October with enhanced searching and great new features. You'll be able to save your reading history, create reading wish lists, get text messages, email check-out receipts, and pay fines online. For more information about this or any other topic, contact your local library.
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. You may also access the library via the Internet: www.mymanatee.org/library. Kimberly Barbour is a Librarian at the Rocky Bluff Branch Library.