Since a gender-bending, sexually ambiguous rock singer just lost American Idol, I thought it would be appropriate to feature another gender-bending, sexually ambiguous rock singer here on QMF that had lots of success back in the 60's: Janis Joplin.
I consider her one of my favorite singers of all time - her range, her deep, soulful, bluesy rasp, her song interpretation, and her ability to show deep pain in her voice, and set her apart from most of the vocalists of the 20th century. Her performances were rugged and real, never over-the-top, energetic, and engaging. Her banter that often included her asking the audience if they were stoned and calling everyone "man." She was a hippie through and through, dismissed in high school as a freak, and dead at age 27 from a heroin overdose. There was never any question about whether her public personality was a performance to increase speculation about her private life or just her, authentically.
Here's her "Crybaby," and more live performances from her after the jump.
Here's her cover of The Chantel's "Maybe," which also happens to be one of my favorite songs. I found it on YouTube just a few weeks ago and was blown away with her performance of it. It's very different from the formidable Arlene Smith's doo-wop version:
And here's the most haunting performance of George Gershwin's "Summertime" that I've ever heard, a year before she died:
She also wasn't afraid to tackle religion and politics in her music. One of the best-known original Janis Joplin songs is "Mercedes Benz."
Although Joplin took numerous female lovers, she never openly identified as lesbian or bisexual. Instead, she considered herself beyond categorization: she was simply sexual.
Her friends mainly referred to her as bisexual, yet the press has long loved to heterosexualize her past, while lesbian culture often claims her as one of its own.
The truth is that Janis maintained long-term relationships with several women, including Peggy Caserta, whose controversial 1973 memoir Going Down with Janis documented their affair and mutual drug addiction. At the same time, Joplin was also on the lookout for "one good man" with whom to settle down. Twice engaged, she never did marry.