Few artists can shake your soul as Janis Joplin could. The tragic figure of Joplin belting out her soulful blues jams as an audience of agog music lovers star with passionate adoration is one of rock’s most pleasing images. The singer, famed for her unique wail and unadulterated outlook on life, is one of the finest vocalists the music world has ever known and below, we’ve got some proof.
Having started her life in the conservative Texan town of Port Arthur, Joplin would become one of the poster children of the counter-culture movement. Moving to San Francisco in pursuit of a freer life, Joplin found solace in the blues music of the past and dedicated many of her earliest performances to the singers of bygone generations, championing covers over the pursuit of her own artistic expression, primarily because she was so good at connecting with the content at hand. It was something Joplin possessed throughout her life and right up until her tragic death.
To put it simply, there was nobody who did it quite like Janis Joplin. To call the diminutive singer a powerhouse is an insult to the skill and technique she employed without the need for extra exaltations. Joplin, firstly as part of the Big Brother and the Holding Company and then later with her band Kozmic Blues Band, became one of the foremost singers of her generation and was just as capable of bringing the house down as she was tearing the scene up. Through a short but potent career, Joplin did both with alarming regularity. Below, we’re looking at one of her greatest songs, ‘Cry Baby’, in one of the more unusual ways, with the isolated vocals.
Usually, isolating the vocal track of any song is beyond reductive. To remove several parts of a recipe will always end up tasting a little bland. But, somehow, when isolating the vocal track of Janis Joplin, the very opposite happens. Her vocal gear changes, her cracks and her crescendos all pulsate with vibrant electricity that is missed when accented by the potency of her band.
The difference between Janis Joplin and pretty much every other singer since was that, above all else, she saw herself as a vocal artist, a sonic performer, an actor of music. Joplin was not at the front of the stage for glory or the gold; she put herself under that spotlight so she could use her vocal brush strokes to paint a raw, emotive and dynamic picture of expression. Looking back, there’s truly no better canvas for Joplin than a song like ‘Cry Baby’.
‘Cry Baby’ hangs on Joplin’s delivery. It’s a performance that is perfectly encapsulated in the song’s first fledgeling moments — wild and wonderful, she lets loose like no other singer could or would even dare to. It’s a passionate performance that typifies an artist who survived on the soul of music itself.