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January 19, 2022

Amazing Photographs of Janis Joplin Performing at 1969 Woodstock Music Festival

The short life and career of Janis Joplin hardly detracts from her recognition of having one of the most beautiful voices in the history of music. Her Woodstock performance was described as strong, but did little to fully display the talent of the troubled muse.


One of the most anticipated acts to play at Woodstock, Janis was completely overwhelmed by the size of the audience. As a result, Janis spent most of the day backstage getting fairly ripped, and consequently was not in the best shape by the time she took the stage at 2:00 am on Sunday morning. Janis and her Kozmic cronies opened with a cover of Eddie Floyd’s “Raise Your Hand,” a suitably up-tempo stomp that showcased the new sound full-bore. Janis worked the groove hard, attempting to establish a rapport with the vast audience. A tune from her forthcoming album followed with Nick Gravenites’ “As Good As You’ve Been To This World,” after which Janis took the mood down a notch for an excellent rendition of the recent Bee Gees’ hit “To Love Somebody,” which would also be on her new album.

Taking it into familiar (to the Woodstock audience) territory for the first time in the set, Janis gave the crowd a soothing rendition of George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” which had been an FM radio staple following its release on the 1968 Big Brother album Cheap Thrills. With the crowd now in her corner, Janis cranked up the energy once again with “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder),” which would become the biggest hit off her forthcoming album. A stunning rendition of the ballad “Kozmic Blues” (again from the new album) followed and was probably the best-received of the new tunes that dominated the set.

Looking to have some fun, Janis turned the microphone over to her tenor sax man Snooky Flowers, who showed what The Kozmic Blues Band could really do in a stomping rendition of Otis Redding’s “Can’t Turn You Loose.” Snooky and Janis flailed about the stage ecstatically, with Janis seemingly happy with the proceedings at last. This paved the way for the final number of the main set, a rendition of Nick Gravenites’ heartrending “Work Me, Lord.” This featured a breakdown section near the end where Janis wailed unaccompanied into the night, giving of herself until her already-brittle voice finally gave out.

Coaxed back onto the stage by a rapturous response from the crowd, Janis closed her Woodstock performance with a pair of tunes from the Cheap Thrills album. First up was “Piece Of My Heart,” which had been Janis’ biggest hit single to date and was rearranged here into an almost unrecognizable up-tempo groove. The set closed with Janis’ classic arrangement of Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball And Chain,” during which an impassioned Pearl left everything she had on that stage with another tormented, unaccompanied climax.

Joplin’s Woodstock set with The Kozmic Blues Band wasn’t received well by some critics and fans who were expecting the more raw, psychedelic rock sound of her former group, but a close examination of their performance shows the energy, emotion, and musicality of the set. Janis Joplin was in total control of the stage and the music, and she gave everything she had that night. Perhaps because of the naysayers, or perhaps for other unknown reasons, Janis Joplin’s Woodstock set was not included in the Woodstock movie or soundtrack. The omission was corrected in later cuts of the movie and other compilations of the music, but Janis was missing from the official record of the time.

After Woodstock, Janis Joplin continued to experiment with her music. She brought together a new band, this time without horns, which she called The Full Tilt Boogie Band, and continued to amaze audiences with her vocal abilities and song interpretations. Brad Campbell, bass player at Woodstock, continued to work with Janis until the end, as did her Woodstock guitarist John Till. The other members of The Kozmic Blues Band went their separate ways, each continuing to perform with a variety of top musicians.

Here, some amazing photographs of Janis Joplin glided to the microphone in her tie-dyed velvet bellbottoms and blouse.


















(via Bethel Woods Center for the Arts)




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