Janis Joplin is one of the most well known names in music. I knew about her persona long before I knew her sound. In the documentary, Janis: Little Girl Blue, we get an intimate view into the rise and fall of this rock legend. Equal parts talented blues musician and heroine addict, Janis Joplin emerges in the film as a delicate flower, who spent her brief life searching for love only to receive it back in fractured pieces. From her early days of being on the receiving end of adolescent bullying to her young adult years of trying to fit her voice into the San Francisco music scene, Janis was a kind, but misunderstood soul.
The film interviews many of Janis’ former friends and bandmates, along with her brother and sister. Not surprisingly, we’re fed the classic pieces of roll ‘n’ roll tragedy — an immense talent with an immense drug addiction, who lingers dangerously long in her well of solitude. Admired by thousands and yet hungering for love, the common thread in these stories is the glass wall that these musicians feel lies between them and their adoring fans; and then of course the walls go up on all sides and they’re left alone in a box, looking out at a world of chaos.
The ending is one we know, but the end credits take a stab at reflection — artists from then and now share their thoughts on this beloved songstress. The clip that resonated with me the most was an interview with John Lennon, where he ponders why – why have we created a world in which people feel the need to take drugs to deal with it? Smart man. The story is nothing new, but what I came away with are some important reminders – that if you love someone, make sure they know it; to be kind to those that need it most; and most importantly, to be a person that encourages others to be themselves without judgement.
Janis: Little Girl Blue is playing in New York City at IFC and Film Society of Lincoln Center.