Monday, February 28, 2011


I'm working my way through the 1960s in my rock history class. Sometimes it feels like a "greatest hits" anthology - Beatles! Stones! Dylan! Hendrix! Joplin! But it's also great to have occasion to revisit these artists and put their work in some sort of context so they're not just admired for their presumed greatness. That's why it's rock history after all, and not rock appreciation...

Janis is up next, and there's a particular source I've always found wonderfully revealing about her: a 1970 appearance on the Dick Cavett show, where Cavett interviews her at some length about her music and her life (not super-long but long in TV talk show terms, maybe seven minutes). It's a great distillation of all the qualities that make Joplin such a supremely complicated and interesting figure from that supremely complicated and interesting decade: she's brash and full of confidence and at the same time, vulnerable and downtrodden; she issues a great challenge to Cavett that undermines both his lame efforts at being hip and his lamer (though self-consciously so) efforts at standing up for "all men," and yet she flaunts her own emotional victimhood. The contradictions she exhibits in this interview are the same things that make her such a powerful performer and also, a figure who sometimes seemed overwrought, like she was trying too hard to please an audience that she assumed was not all on her side.

Here it is:

No comments:

Post a Comment