Saturday, January 19, 2013

Janis Joplin: The girl who sang the blues

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away

Lyrics by Don McLean
From the song American Pie

Don McLean released his American Pie album in 1971, not long after the death of Janis Joplin from an accidental drug overdose on October 4, 1970.  Joplin is widely  thought to be "the girl who sang the blues" in McLean's song.  Perhaps that is why his lyrics are so wistful and melancholy. McLean must have also been influenced by another drug-related death, that of rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix just sixteen days earlier.  Sadly, both Joplin and Hendrix were only 27 years old when they passed away.

If Janis Lyn Joplin were alive today, she would be celebrating her 70th birthday.  She was born in Port Arthur, Texas on January 19, 1943.  Her father, Seth Joplin, was an engineer at Texaco and her mother, Dorothy (nee East) was a registrar at a business college.  Janis was the eldest of three Joplin children.  She had a sister named Laura and a brother, Michael.

Janis attended Thomas Jefferson High School where she was bullied and shunned because she suffered from acne and was overweight.  She took solace in the music of blues artists such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey.  They inspired her to become a blues singer.

Janis graduated from Jefferson High in 1960.  She then enrolled at the Lumar State College of Technology.  She left Lumar after only one semester to take some secretarial courses at Port Arthur College.  Eager to leave the small Texas oiltown and begin a music career, Joplin moved to Los Angeles in 1961.  She returned home and entered the  University of Texas at Austin in 1962. It was there that she began performing her music on campus and at a local pub.

Still restless, Joplin left for California again in 1963.  This time she settled in San Francisco where she  became part of the Haight-Ashbury scene and began to use amphetamines and heroin.  She appeared so thin and unhealthy that, at the urging of concerned friends, she once again returned to Port Arthur in 1965.  She did not stay there, of course, and went back to San Francisco where the hippie movement was beginning to blossom.

Janis joined the psychedelic acid-rock group Big Brother and the Holding Company which was managed by her friend Chet Helms.  They had their first gig in 1966 and Joplin made her mark as their lead singer.   In June of 1967, the band performed in front of tens of thousands of people at the Monterey Pop Festival.  The Monterey performance gained the group a great deal of recognition after which they released their self-titled debut album in August of 1967, but sales for the album were somewhat disappointing.

In November of 1967, the group signed a contract with Columbia Records  They acquired a new manager too - Albert Grossman.  Grossman was well known as a music entrepreneur and had managed some of the most popular folk and folk rock performers.  His clients included such big names as Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Odetta and Ian and Sylvia.

Big Brother's second album, Cheap Thrills, was released in August of 1968.  It was a smashing success and earned gold record status.  Columbia chose to market Janis as the star attraction and the band's name was changed to Janis Joplin and the Big Brother and the Holding Company. As 1968 drew to a close, however, the 26-year-old Joplin decided to go solo and form her own band.  She embarked on a tour of Europe with her new group, the Kozmic Blues Band.  Janis and the Kozmic Blues Band played London's Albert Hall.  They also performed at a very raucous concert in Frankfurt in the former West Germany.

In August of 1969, Janis Joplin appeared at the Woodstock Music Festival where she sang ten songs:  "Raise Your Hand," "As Good as You've Been to This World," "To Love Somebody," "Summertime," "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," "Kosmic Blues," "Can't Turn You Loose," "Work Me, Lord," "Piece of My Heart" and "Ball and Chain."  In late 1969, she appeared with Tom Jones on his television variety show, This is Tom Jones.  Click on the link below to watch Janis perform the song "Raise Your Hand" with Tom.

Tom Jones and Janis Joplin in 1969

At the end of 1969, the Kozmic Blues Band broke up and Janis' drug habit was clearly out of control.  In February of 1970, Janis travelled to Brazil where she tried to kick her heroin addiction. She managed to stay clean for awhile, but resumed her use of drugs upon her return to the United States.  It was about this time that she formed a new band called the Full Tilt Boogie Band.  The Full Tilt Boogie Band was comprised mainly of Canadian musicians and it began touring in May of 1970.

Just months before her death, Janis made two television appearances on The Dick Cavett Show. In the first appearance, on June 25, 1970, she told Cavett that she would be attending her ten-year high school class reunion even though she had been ridiculed by fellow students.  During her second appearance on August 3, 1970, she mentioned her plans to perform at the Festival for Peace to be held at New York's Shea Staudium on August 6, 1970.

Janis Joplin's final public performance was with the Full Tilt Boogie Band at the Harvard Stadium in Boston on August 12, 1970.  She spent the last weeks of her life recording a new album in Los Angeles.  The album was called Pearl and it was produced by Paul A. Rothchild, the producer of The Doors' recordings.  Although Janis died before the album was fully completed, she had recorded enough material to create a long-playing record.

Although Joplin never lived to see its success, Pearl would become the most popular album of her career.  It also contained her biggest hit single, Me and Bobby McGee.  Me and Bobby McGee was written by Kris Kristofferson with whom Janis had had a relationship in the spring of 1970. That song still resonates with me because I can remember my high school classmates singing "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose . . ."

On October 4th, 1970, producer Paul Rothchild became alarmed when Janice did not show up for a recording session.  John Cooke, Full Tilt Boogie's road manager drove to the Landmark Hotel in Hollywood Heights where she was staying.  Cooke noticed that her car, a psychedelically painted Porsche 366 Cabriolet, in the parking lot.  Upon entering her room, he discovered her body on the floor next to her bed.  The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol consumption.

Janis Joplin personified her turbulent era. She was most comfortable with the San Francisco counter-culture and the anti-establishment.  A trail blazer for female rock artists. she exuded raw energy.  Although she was  crude and profane, there was also a tender side to her. Her music was filled with pain and heartbreak but behind that rough exterior was little girl baring her soul to the world through her songs.  She once said: "You can fill your life with ideas and still go home lonely. All you really have that really matters are feelings.  That's what music is to me."  I believe that if Janis Joplin were still with us at the age of 70, she would still be belting out "Piece of My Heart" with that unmistakable raspy voice.  Her soulful sound is not to be forgotten.  It is her legacy.


*  Laura Joplin, Janis' younger sister,  published a book entitled Love, Janis in 1992..  Laura wrote the book after discovering some old letters Janis has written.  The letters sparked her curiosity about her famous sibling and led her to interview Janis' friends and colleagues.

*  In 1995, Janis Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

*  In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine included Pearl in its list of thee 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  Pearl was ranked 122nd.  In case you are wondering why the album was called Pearl, the answer is that Pearl was Janice Joplin's nickname.  She asked people to refer to her by that name.

- Joanne

Friday, January 11, 2013

NHL fans deserve more than a thank you

Now that the NHL lockout has ended, it's time to talk about some compensation for much-maligned hockey fans.  Remember how after the lockout of 2004-2005, a thank you to fans appeared on the ice surface of every NHL arena.  That will not be enough this time.  Much more is needed.  Damien Cox, hockey columnist for the Toronto Star, has written that the fans have been disrespected by both the league and its players.  I wholeheartedly concur with his assessment. Cox is absolutely right that the fans have been unappreciated.and treated shabbily.  It will take a great deal of time and effort to repair the damage that the lockout has done to the image of the league.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has apologized to fans for the lockout.  That's just is good enough.  If the NHL really wants to do more than just pay lip service to the fans, it is time for Bettman and his cohorts to put their money where there mouth is.  Yes, it will cost the billionaire owners some money, but they will not regret it in the long run.  Here is my modest proposal to the National Hockey League.

1. The second home game in every arena in every NHL city should be a fan appreciation day.

2.  On fan appreciation day, all ticket holders should receive 50 per cent off the price of a regular ticket.  Before the puck is dropped for the opening face-off, the captain of the home team should step in front of a microphone and express a thank you to the fans on behalf of all the players on his own team and the other teams in the NHL.

3.  At the end of the season, every every season ticket holder should receive a refund for $113.00, one dollar for each day of the 113-day lockout.

If  the NHL adopted even one of these three simple measures, some much-needed good will would be generated toward the league.  Will any of my suggestions come to pass?  I doubt it.  The owners have lost a great deal of money due to this labour dispute. Since they tend to measure everything in dollars and cents, it's highly unlikely that they would be willing to relinquish any more cash.  For the sake of the fans and the future of the NHL, I hope that the league has something more than thank yous and apologies in mind for the fans.

I am interested to know what the readers of Number 16 think of my suggestions.  I invite you to e-mail me with your opinions.

- Joanne

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Are French stars Depardieu and Bardot headed for Russia?


So what's gotten into Gerard Diepardieu?
Is it farewell to France, farewell and adieu?
He's moving to Moscow right out of the blue
And the lovely Bardot, will she follow too?
He says he must leave and he says he'll be fine
But what kind of Frenchman drinks vodka, not wine?
And who trades away all those clear Paris skies
For Putin's support and some dubious ties?

French film star Gerard Depardieu has apparently decided to leave the motherland.  The 64-year-old actor recently obtained Russian citizenship after meeting with President Vladimir Putin.  He has chosen to move away from France as a result of some serious issues with the government of French President Francois Hollande.  Hollande is a socialist but France has been governed by a socialist before - Francois Mitterand from 1981 to 1995.

Depardieu is angry over President Hollande's proposed 75 per cent tax rate for millionaires.  He prefers Russia's flat rate income tax of 13 per cent over the new tax on income over 1 million euros (1.3 million U.S.) that Hollande intends to levy in France. On January 3, 2013, the unhappy Frenchman was was warmly greeted by President Putin at the Russian leader's residence in the Black Sea town of Sochi, where next year's Winter Olympics are to be held.  The two men were shown shaking hands and hugging on the Russian state run television station, Channel One.

It's also worth noting that on January 8th, Depardieu failed to appear in court on drunk driving charges in Paris (He fell off his scooter last November and was charged with impaired driving). The actor's lawyer explained that he was in Montenegro preparing for his latest film in which he will portray disgraced International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Khan.  Instead, according to a report in London's Daily Telegraph, Depardieu met with Montenegro's prime minister, Milo Djukanovic and scouted for property to buy.

At a joint news conference In Montenegro with Prime Minister Djukanovic, Depardieu denied that he was trying to evade French justice and said that he would return to France.  He defended his absence from the Paris court hearing and his decision to receive a Russian passport.  He stated, "I'm not a criminal.  I skidded on my scooter.  I fell asleep.  Even if I eat a salad with too much vinegar, I already have too much alcohol in my blood.""  As for the Russian passport, he declared, "Please don't think that I want to collect passports.  I am a citizen of Europe.  I live in Europe.  My dream is to be a citizen of the world."  First Depardieru will have to deal with the drunk driving charges.  His hearing will now be deferred to a criminal court where he faces the loss of his licence and up to two years in prison.


Animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot has been threatening to follow in Depardieu's footsteps and seek a Russian passport too.  Althoug Bardot and Depardieu have disagreed in the past over Depardieu's enthusiasm for bullfighting, she supports his lastest actions and claims he is a "victim of extremely unfair persecution."  La Bardot's issue with President Hollande is quite different, though.  The former actress and fashion model is extremely upset over the fate of two sick Asian elephants in a Lyon zoo.  She is calling on Hollande to save the animals from death by lethal injection.

The elephants, Baby and Nepal, were banished from a circus for bad behaviour in 1999.  In 2010, they were diagnosed as TB carriers and are thought to be infected with the human form of tuberculosis.  According to French law, herds of farm animals must be destroyed if they are even suspected of carrying tuberculosis.  The problem is that no clear law exists for wild animals such as elephants.  The French Council of State (Conseil d'Etat), therefore, has agreed to rule on the matter and the animals cannot be killed until the council has rendered  a judgement.  If  it decides that that Baby and Nepal should be put to death, Bardot and her supporters are counting on Hollande to save the elephants.

Meanwhile, a petition has been circulating on the Internet since January 4, 2013 calling on President Holland to intervene rescue the elephants.  It has over 80,000 signatures.  Click on the link below to view the petition.

Brigitte Bardot has offered to cover the costs of removing the elephants from the wildlife park in Lyon, including their upkeep and veterinary bills.  If the elephants die. the 78-year-old  vows to obtain a Russian passport.  She will leave her seafront villa in Saint Tropez. and move to Russia.even though Russia has an abysmal animal rights record.  Another French film star, Catherine Deneuve, has expressed solidarity with Gerard Depardieu and Bardot.

Although Gerard Deparieu has a right to live where he chooses, it's difficult to fathom why anyone would want to leave democratic France for Putin's Russia, even to avoid taxation.  Depardieu, Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve have all led privileged lives in France and they have indulged in very luxurious lifestyles.  They are not being asked to relinquish all of their wealth and status.  Russia, under former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, is a very autocratic state.  Why don't they talk about giving back something to France in return for what France has given them?  It remains to be seen if either Depardieu or Bardot will ever actually live in Russia on a permanent basis.  Somehow, I doubt it.

- Joanne

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2013: The Year Ahead

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
- T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
From the poem Little Gidding             
We are five days into a New Year and there is much ahead.  I am not superstitious about the number 13 at all and I am always hopeful that 2013 will be a better year.  It is sometimes undeniably difficult to feel that way but as Henry Beecher Ward wrote:

Every man should be born again on the first day of January.  Start with a fresh page.  Take up one more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances, but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past.



Although there will be no federal election until It will be an active year in politics here in Canada. The federal Liberal Party will choose a new leader on April 14, 2013 and the spotlight will be on MPs Justin Trudeau and Marc Garneau.  The Ontario Liberals will replace outgoing Dalton McGuinty and the province will have a new premier.  Their convention will be held at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto from January 27-27, 2013. A provincial election is scheduled for British Columbia on May 14, 2013.  Since Quebec and Ontario both have minority governments, there is the possibility that those two provinces could go to the polls this year.  A provincial election is more likely to take place in Ontario, though.

Keep an eye on the aboriginal people's Idle No More movement.  Aboriginal leaders are especially concerned about the Indian Act, the Navigation Act and the Environmental Assessment Act. Theresa Spence, Chief of the Attawapskat First Nation, is on a hunger strike and vows that she will continue it until she sees the results of an outcome of a meeting between aboriginal leaders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday, January 11, 2013.  Spence and her supporters have camped out on Victoria Island on the Ottawa River near Parliament Hill since December 11, 2012.


Italy will hold parliamentary elections on February 24-25, 2013.  Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is to lead a coalition into the election.

In December, disgraced former prime minister, Silivio Berlusconi, 76, announced his engagement to 28-year-old Francesca Pascale.  Pascale is a former shop assistant from Naples and she served as the provincial councillor in Berlesconi's centre-right PDL party until July of 2012.  This will be the flamboyant media tycoon's third marriage.


U..S. President Barack Obama's second inauguration will take place on January 21st, 2013. According the 20th Amendment to the United States Constitution (passed in 1933), the presidential inauguration must take place at noon on January 20th, provided that January 20th does not fall on a Sunday.  This year, January 20th falls on a Sunday so Obama will be sworn in on the 21st.  2013 marks the first time an inauguration day has fallen on the Sabbath since President James Monroe's second  swearing-in in 1821.

President Obama doesn't have to worry about being re-elected anymore.  He should stand up to the gun lobbyists and not be intimidated by the National Rifle Association.  It will be interesting to see how successful he will be in his attempt to ban semi-automatic weapons.

On foreign policy, Obama would be wise to concentrate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The situation in Gaza and the West Bank is at the core of much of the conflict in the world. Surprisingly, it was not discussed much during the 2102 presidential campaign.  Now that John Kerry is about to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, it will be interesting to see how he approaches the matter.

This year marks two important anniversaries in the American civil rights movement.  Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation 150 ago, on January 1, 1863.  It proclaimed freedom for all slaves in Confederate territory.  The 50th anniversary of the famous civil rights March on Washington on August 28, 1963 will be celebrated this year.

It's hard to believe but November 22, 1963 will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.


There were over 500 murders in the Windy City last year.  According to police, up to 80 per cent of Chicago's murders and shootings are gang-related.  On January 3rd, Chicago Police Chief Gerry McCarthy stated that the "Chicago Police Department takes more guns off the street consistently, year after year, than any department in the country."  He reported that police confiscated more than 7,400 guns, including 300 assault weapons in Chicago in 2012.  Speaking at St. Sabina Church on Chicago's South Side, McCarthy called for five measures to put an end to such gun violence: restriction of of assault weapons; restriction of high capacity magazines; reporting of the loss, theft or transfer of a firearm; good background checks and mandatory minimums to prevent people from possessing illegal firearms.  Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, added his voice to the proceeding when he declared, "You do not need an AK-47  or an Uzi for the streets of Chicago, Joliet, Aurora, Rockford, Decatur or Springfield and everything in between.  And you don't need a high calibre magazine."  Thank goodness for some voices of sanity!


Parliamentary elections will be held in Israel on January 22.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to maintain power although his Likud Party has recently begun losing ground.


2012 was such an eventful year in the U.K.  The Queen celebrated her 60th anniversary on the throne. After the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, London hosted the Summer Olympic Games.  This year, the British await the birth of a royal baby who will be third in the line of succession.


iconic - This word is used so frequently that it has lost its meaning.

have your back - Enough already!

fiscal cliff  -  It's about time for the end of that term.


Canada's population surpassed 35 million in 2012, according to an estimate from Statistics Canada last month.  Back in 1967, our centennial year, the late Bobby Gimby wrote a patriotic song called CA-NA-DA which proclaims, "Now we are twenty million."  The population of this country has increased by about 15 million in 45 years.


For the first time in its history, Canada has five female premiers. These woman are the current leaders of the governing parties in four of its 10 provinces and in one of its three territories..  They are Kathy Dunderdale of Newfoundland, Pauline Marois of Quebec, Alison Redford of Alberta, Christy Clark of British Columbia and Eva Aariak of Nunavut.

Dunderdale of Newfoundland

Marois of Quebec

Aariak of Nunavut territory

Redford of Alberta
Clark of British Columbia


There will be no Olympic Games, no Commonwealth Games, FIFA World Cup of soccer (football) in 2013.


Canadian Football League

The 101st Grey Cup game will be hosted by the city of Regina, Saskatchewan.  It is scheduled to take place on November 24, 2013 at Mosaic Stadium at Talor Field.  Those Saskatchewan fans are the most enthusiastic fans I've ever seen.  They will be be outstanding Grey Cup hosts.


The 2013 Super Bowl will take place on February 3, 2013.  The game will be played in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Superdome.  (Americans like the word "super"). The event is being billed as Super Bowl XLVII and it will mark the first time championship game has been played at the dome since it was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


As of this writing, there has not been an agreement between the National Hockey League and its players' union.  If the two sides fail to agree to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the season will be cancelled as will the Stanley Cup playoffs.  The New Year's Day outdoor Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs has already been cancelled. It was to have taken place at Michigan, Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Under-20 World Junior Hockey Championships ended today with a gold medal victory for Team USA over Team Sweden.  The final score was 3-1.  Team Canada finished a disappointing fourth and out of the medals.  Team Russia won the bronze medal.


The 84th edition of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field in Queen's, New York on July 16, 2013.  It will mark the first time that the New York Mets have hosted an All-Star Game since 1964, their inaugural season at Shea Stadium.

The major league teams to watch in 2013 are the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Blue Jays, they should win a wild card spot, at the very least.  Anything less than post-season play will be a big disappointment considering all the off season improvements GM Alex Anthopoulos has made.

The 2013 World Baseball Classic will be held from March 2, 2013 to March 19, 2013.  The international competition will be hosted by Japan, Puerto Rico, Taiwan and the United States. Japan is the two-time defending champion, having won the previous tournaments in 2006 and 2009.

- Joanne