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Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue—2016Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue—2016

You only need to hear a few seconds of one of her songs to know that the raspy vocals and the raw lyrics are those of Janis Joplin (1943–1970).  Her career lasted only four years and produced four albums, but it was way more than enough to make her one of the leading female vocalists of her day.  This documentary doesn't have a single narrator, but instead draws on the memories of many people who were closest to her, most notably her sister, and then the members of the three bands that she fronted — Big Brother and the Holding Company, Full Tilt Boogie, and Cosmic Blues Band.  Joplin's big break came at the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival.  Others will remember her Woodstock performance.  On stage, she was an uncompromising non-conformist, but after the show and behind the bravado, she was a deeply lonely and insecure woman who never outgrew her unhappy childhood in Port Arthur, Texas.  Her drug problems were bad long before she was famous, bad enough for her buddies in San Francisco to buy her a bus ticket and send her back home.  The best part of this film is the archival performance footage, along with the tender letters that Joplin wrote to her parents.  Joplin died of a heroin overdose at the age of twenty-seven.  I watched this film on the PBS website; it's part of their series called "American Masters."

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