Revolution, the Counterculture, and the Pill

The Late 1960s


Read the brief bios below to learn about Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Tina Turner, Grace Slick, Carole King, Bonnie Raitt and Laura Nyro Click on each image to watch vintage performances of these artists.

Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples began her career with her family group, the Staple Singers, in 1950, when she was 11 years old. When she graduated from high school in 1957, the Staple Singers took their music on the road. Led by family patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples on guitar and including the voices of Mavis and her siblings Cleo, Yvonne and Pervis, the Staples became the most successful and influential gospel group in America. They reached the Top 40 eight times between 1971 and 1975, including two #1 singles, "I'll Take You There" and "Let's Do It Again." Staples made her first solo recording, "Crying in the Chapel," in the late 1960s.  Over the years, she has recorded with Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Nona Hendryx, George Jones, Natalie Merchant, Ann Peebles and Delbert McClinton. Her latest album, 2010’s You Are Not Alone, was produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.


Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin is the undisputed “Queen of Soul.” Franklin was born in Memphis and grew up in Detroit. She began singing church music at an early age and recorded several gospel albums at 14. In 1960, she signed with Columbia Records, where she recorded several albums but switched to Atlantic Records in 1966, proceeding to revolutionize soul music with some of the genre’s greatest recordings. Her most productive period ran from 1967 through 1972. During that period, she recorded such classics as “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You),” “Do Right Woman – Do Right Man,” “Dr. Feelgood,” “Chain of Fools,” “Think,” “Baby, I Love You,” “Since You’ve Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby)” and the career-defining #1 hit, “Respect.” “Respect” would go on to become a clarion-call anthem for the civil-rights and women’s movements. Franklin’s lengthy tenure with Atlantic came to an end in 1979, after 12 years and 19 albums.


Loretta Lynn

Rightly nicknamed “the Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Loretta Lynn was born Loretta Webb in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, in 1934. She married Oliver Lynn, nicknamed “Mooney,” when she was 13. They had six children and were married nearly 50 years until his death in 1996. Lynn didn’t begin playing music until her mid-twenties. After singing in some local bands, she attracted the attention of independent record label Zero Records. Within a year, Lynn signed to Decca, one of the biggest labels in the country. Taken under the wing of Patsy Cline, Lynn began to blossom into a major recording star. Including her duets with Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn posted an astounding 51 Top 10 country hits between 1962 and 1982, including 16 #1 hits. Lynn never shied away from topics that she felt should be addressed, and her records could be deep personal reflections on fidelity, relationships, alcoholism and birth control.


Bonnie Raitt

Raised in Los Angeles, Raitt took up guitar at 12. When Bonnie Raitt won a phenomenal four Grammys in 1990, it came as overdue recognition for an artist who had been breaking down barriers of gender and genre since the early 1970s. Her love of, and feel for, the blues was evident on her first album, Bonnie Raitt (1971).  While attending college in Boston, she gravitated to the folk-blues scene of the late 1960s, emerging as something of an anomaly: a woman who sang blues with gritty passion and played slide guitar with authority. She performed with, and was schooled by, Sippie Wallace, Mississippi Fred McDowell and others. Throughout her career, she's combined an old-school country-blues grounding with a contemporary outlook and willingness to experiment, which has made her both relevant and popular.


Grace Slick

Born in 1939 in Evanston, IL, Slick helped redefine a woman’s role in rock as more than just a sex symbol backed by a band. “White Rabbit,” which she wrote, helped define not only her band but also an entire era. Her iconoclastic vocals on “Somebody to Love” gave the Airplane its biggest hit. As one of the first female rock stars, The Jefferson Airplane was the first band on the San Francisco scene to play a dance concert, sign a major-label record contract and tour the U.S. and Europe. In addition, the group espoused boldly anarchistic political views and served as a force for social change.


Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin was born in 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas, an oil-refining town on the coast. Growing up, she was a social outcast who found an outlet in music. Joplin was drawn to blues (Odetta, Lead Belly and Bessie Smith) and soul (Otis Redding, Tina Turner and Etta James). She performed folk blues on the coffeehouse circuit in Texas and San Francisco before hooking up with Big Brother and the Holding Company. The group’s second album, Cheap Thrills, topped the charts for eight weeks in 1968. It featured Joplin’s raw, impassioned readings of Willie Mae Thornton’s “Ball and Chain” and “Piece of My Heart.”


Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell is an accomplished musician, songwriter, poet and painter. Hailing from Canada, where she performed as a folk singer as far back as 1962, she found her niche on the same Southern California singer-songwriter scene of the late Sixties and early Seventies that germinated such kindred spirits as Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Mitchell’s artistry goes well beyond folk singing to incorporate elements of jazz and classical music. Impossible to categorize, Mitchell has doggedly pursued avenues of self-expression, heedless of commercial outcomes. Nonetheless, she managed to connect with a mass audience in the mid-Seventies, when a series of albums – Court and Spark (1974, #2), Miles of Aisles (1974, #2), The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975, #4) – established her as one of that decade’s preeminent artists.


Laura Nyro

Born in New York City on October 18, 1947, Laura Nyro began playing music early. She enjoyed a wide range of influences at Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art. She immersed herself in the music she heard around her, from Ravel and Debussy to girl groups and Motown, from Nina Simone to John Coltrane, from Philly soul to Dionne Warwick, from Pete Seeger to the Beatles. Her debut album, More Than a New Discovery, was released in 1966. In 1968, she released Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. She became known as a hit songwriter, as other artists charted with her songs – the Fifth Dimension, Blood, Sweat and Tears with Three Dog Night, and Barbra Streisand.  Nyro continued to record and tour until her death in 1997 from ovarian cancer.


Michelle Phillips & Mama Cass

Born Holly Michelle Gilliam in Long Beach, California, in 1944, Michell Phillips met John Phillips while he was touring California with his band the Journeymen. They married on December 31, 1962.  Born Ellen Naomi Cohen, on September 19, 1941, in Baltimore, Maryland, Mama Cass Elliot grew up around Washington DC and moved to New York City high school. By early 1963 she formed a folk group called the Big Three, which would go on to include future Mamas and the Papas member Denny Doherty and Zal Yanovsky, who would go on to become a founding member of the Lovin’ Spoonful. The Big Three morphed into the Mugwumps, who broke up at the end of 1964, at which point Cass Elliot began to work as a solo artist in Washington.  Meanwhile, Denny Doherty joined John and Michelle Phillips, and the three began performing as the New Journeymen. Elliot subsequently joined them, and the four began to sing together in mid-1965, calling themselves the Mamas and the Papas. From 1965 to 1968, the Mamas and the Papas recorded a series of Top 10 hits, including "Monday, Monday," "California Dreamin'" and a remake of the Shirelles’ hit "Dedicated to the One I Love."  Along with Lou Adler, John and Michelle Phillips organized the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967. The group's last hit, "Dream a Little Dream of Me," essentially launched Elliot’s solo career. The Mamas and the Papas disbanded in 1968 to pursue solo careers.



Odetta’s powerful, yet elegant stage presence and voice and her dissemination of African-American spirituals and folk ballads contributed immeasurably to the canon of world folk music and to the American civil-rights movement. Her work became an influence on artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Joan Armatrading and Nick Cave. Odetta Holmes was born on December 31, 1930, in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up listening to Bessie Smith. Her family moved to Los Angeles, where at age 13 she began voice lessons. At 19, she landed a role in the Los Angeles production of Finian's Rainbow and later appeared in  Guys and Dolls. She experienced the burgeoning folk-music scene in San Francisco and began performing in clubs there. In 1953, Odetta traveled to New York City to appear at the Blue Angel folk club. Pete Seeger and Harry Belafonte took notice of her work, and her debut album, The Tin Angel, was released in 1954. In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented Odetta with the National Medal of the Arts and Humanities. Odetta performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s American Music Masters tribute to Lead Belly in 2004.


Tina Turner

Born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Brownsville, Tennessee, Turner was raised in the hamlet of Nutbush and moved to St. Louis as a teenager. It was there that she first saw Ike Turner’s ground-breaking R&B combo, the Kings of Rhythm. Eventually, she got up the nerve to audition for Ike, who liked what he heard and invited Tina to join his revue. Their first hit, “A Fool in Love,” was recorded in 1961, when another singer failed to show up for a session. As the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, they scored a string of hits, including “River Deep-Mountain High” and “Proud Mary,” a re-make of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic. The couple split up in 1976, and Tina virtually disappeared from the music scene for several years.  Tina Turner made her comeback in 1983 with the single “Let’s Stay Together” and the subsequent album Private Dancer. One of the world's most popular entertainers, Turner has been called the most successful female rock artist and was named "one of the greatest singers of all time" by Rolling Stone.