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Rock and Roll Night School Spotlights Janis Joplin

Tuesday, November 10: 2:02 p.m.
Posted by Jason Hanley
Rock and Roll Night School on November 9. Photo: Rock Hall/Janet Macoska.

Rock Hall’s Director of Education Discusses the Sound of Janis’ Voice

Last night we hosted the first event of American Music Masters week: Rock and Roll Night School at the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University.  The evening featured multi-media presentations by Dr. Lauren Onkey, Dr. Mary Davis (Chair of the Music Department at CWRU), and myself, examining Janis Joplin’s contributions to rock and roll history.

My presentation focused on what I most love about Joplin: her voice!  Her vocal performances are so moving.  She makes you feel something.  She makes you want to jump and shout, dance and sing.  People often talk about the wild abandon of her voice, as if she experienced a kind of rapture in her performances that pushed her and her audience to the edge.  But after diving deep into her music over the last year I realized that her performances of rapture were just that, performances.  It’s not that she didn’t feel them, but as a performer she worked at refining the way she created these moments for her audience.  A great example of this is her performances of the classic Big Mama Thornton tune “Ball ...


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Big Brother and the Holding Company Kick Off 14th Annual American Music Masters Honoring Janis Joplin

Monday, October 26: 4:17 p.m.
Big Brother and the Holding Company perform in the Rock Hall's Foster Theater.

Last Thursday, Big Brother and the Holding Company kicked off the 2009 American Music Masters celebration, Kozmic Blues: The Life and Music of Janis Joplin. Sam Andrew, Dave Getz, and Peter Albin, three original members of the band, spent the day in Cleveland to help us tell the full story of Janis Joplin’s career. They filmed interviews for our Library and Archives, did an interview and performed in our new Foster Theater, and capped the night with a packed show at the Beachland Ballroom. Clevelanders Mary Bridget Davies and Ben Nieves joined them on vocals and guitar.

Big Brother played their first gig in January of 1966, six months before Janis Joplin joined them. When they decided that they wanted another vocalist in the band, Chet Helms suggested his friend from Austin, Texas, Janis Joplin. On paper, it seems like an odd match: Big Brother was known for their energy and power—in retrospect, they seem like a punk band—but Joplin had never sung with a rock band before. Yet they found common ground in their love of blues and folk music, and they quickly discovered that Joplin could “bring it,” as Dave Getz said last week in ...


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