Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin had a lot in common during the late 60’s until their deaths in 1970. The question that persists today is; did they or didn’t they perform together. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were described as friends. They often played the same venues and would hang out together backstage.
Did they or didn’t they can also be asked about having sex together. After all, Janis was a “hippie” and having sex was a pastime of hers. There is nothing to indicate that they were more than friends, without benefits.
Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin had many commonalities to their fame and lives. They had personality traits that were self-destructive that ended up making them both members of the 27 Club. If you are not familiar with the 27 Club, it was a name given to the more than 40 musical artists who died at the age of 27. It was an era when drugs, alcohol and even suicide were a common thread of many performers’ lives and performances.
Both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin dropped out of high school to pursue their musical career. Both taught themselves their musical skills; Janis worked on her voice while Jimi worked on his guitar skills. They must have been good self-teachers. Jimi is still known as the greatest guitarist in the history of blues and rock. Janet and her mezzo-soprano voice and electric vocal style became “Queen of the Blues.”
They were products of the 60’s music and Hippie scene at a time the country was in turmoil over the Viet Nam war. Both Jimi and Janus performed with a number of bands before they came into their own.
Their decision to play at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 changed their careers and made both famous across the world. Their decision to play at the festival had more to do with supporting the anti-war movement than trying to achieve fame. In the end, their anti-war stance increased their popularity.
Jimi’s seminal performance at the Monterey Pop Festival may be his best. It was the first stop on a tour of his new band; The Jimi Hendrix Experience. His guitar playing was brilliant, including playing behind his head, with his tongue and, at the conclusion, setting his guitar on fire.
Rolling Stone Later said: “… At the same time, he liberated rock & roll guitar once and for all from the choke of Top Forty dictums. The way he tore into “Purple Haze,” scratching the song’s elephantine funk intro with sawtoothed distortion, and calmly skated up the shimmering, ascending chorus of “The Wind Cries Mary” had no precedent in rock guitar and, even at Monterey, no equal.
The American debut of the Jimi Hendrix Experience at Monterey on June 18th, 1967 is still a revelation, an orgasmic explosion of singing feedback, agitated stretches of jazzy improvisation and recombinant R&B guitar. Sucking the crowd into his hurricane sound, Hendrix dragged Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” through Mississippi-blues mud, attacked his own “Can You See Me” with amphetamine impatience and, egged on by Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell’s rhythmic frenzy, drove “Wild Thing” head-on into a wall of white noise.
Janis Joplin’s performance was the first time a large audience had seen and heard her perform as the lead singer of a little-known San Francisco rock band; Big Brother and the Holding Company. It turned out to be so powerful of a performance that festival organizers opened a second slot for the band so they could be captured by the film crew making the documentary of the festival.
The cameras then capture her five minute and 45 second spectacular rendition of Ball and Chain, including the stunned reaction of one of the audience members. Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Pappas, her mouth open, is staring in disbelief.
Janis’ gravelly mezzo soprano voice projected frenzy and craving that was perfected by her emotional physical actions. She offered voice to her personal pain and those of many others. She became an instant sensation.
Their fame did nothing but enhance their free spirit and “hippie” ways. Kim France reported in The New York Times article, “Nothin’ Left to Lose” (May 2, 1999): “Once she became famous, Joplin cursed like a truck driver, did not believe in wearing undergarments, was rarely seen without her bottle of Southern Comfort and delighted in playing the role of sexual predator.” What Kim France got wrong is that once she became famous, she continued to do those things, not started to do them.
Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are both examples of artists who perhaps gave too much to their music. They were addicted to their performances and the applause they received from adoring fans. Out of the spotlight, they turned to drugs to keep the high.
Janus said it better herself: “Onstage, I make love to 25,000 people – then I go home alone.”
The Question Still Lingers: Did They or Didn’t They perform or record together?
No recordings or evidence has ever been found of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin ever performing together. Because they often hung out backstage together, it’s reasonable to assume that they may have jammed together while waiting to perform. If they did, we will never know.
What we do know is that Albert King said during a recorded session with Stevie Ray Vaughn. If you watch the video (edited to just include his words about recording with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin) you can hear for yourself.
Here are Albert King’s words during the session: ‘…at the Fillmore West, I looked around one night, is saw a guy looked just like you, I said, “I know that aint Stevie done eased in there.” About that time Jimi said, “Let’s play some blues”. I said, “OK, not without the Queen though.” That’s Janis. We sent down for Janis. She came down with her little glass. She always had her little glass God rest her soul. She said, “What’s Happening”. I said, “We’re gonna do some blues, we want you to start if off, Honey.” She said, “Cool.” Jimi hit two or three more licks, on the thing there. (Stevie plays a little bit here and then Albert
says) Do it again, I like that.’
Unfortunately, Albert King got into the music and never said anything more about it.
Here’s hoping that someday a recording of them performing together will surface. Perhaps found in a storage closet long ago forgotten. In the meantime, we have the Did They or Didn’t They Tour featuring two great tribute artists of Jimi Hendrix and Janus Joplin to show us what it would have been like if they did.