Janis Joplin was known for living her life in the fast lane. Her free spirit and rebellious streak would tragically lead to the singer famously losing her battle with addiction when she was only 27-years-old. However, her fight with addiction didn’t stop her from wanting others to still have a good time and she even inserted a bizarre fund into her will and testament just days before her accidental death in 1970.
By 1970, with a new decade on the horizon, Janis Joplin was beginning to assert herself as a juggernaut of the music industry. Having worked her way through the hazy coffee houses of San Francisco the singer had traversed the most notable stages in the world and had been an integral part of what made the sixties great. The new decade offered a pathway to superstardom if she could just navigate her growing demons.
Joplin, more than any other singer, somehow took the messages from the past and turned them into something current. Her covers of ‘Cry Baby’, ‘Piece of My Heart’ and ‘Ball and Chain’ marked her out as an extraordinary interpreter of art and offered audiences a staggering glimpse of her giant heart. It was the kind of heart that not only extended across music but also offered empathy to everyone in her personal life too.
Despite her great, raw talent which made her an artist that is unlike anything that the world has witnessed since and probably ever will. However, Joplin fell into the deep hole of drink and drugs which she would succumb to whilst she was at the top of her game. It’s impossible to recreate that high that you get from performing live to thousands of people every night and drugs is a quick fix to get those pulses back racing at a similar level. Unfortunately, Joplin would grow heavily reliant on opiates, eventually leading to her death.
Joplin evidently knew that her lifestyle had grown unsustainable, knowing she wouldn’t be able to live the way she was for much longer and she made adjustments to her will and testament just two days before her premature death. Whether it was coincidence or premonition, we can’t be sure. But what we can be sure of is that she made sure her friends would have a good time if and when she did die.
The adjustments made to Joplin’s will on October 2nd, 1970 saw her mostly hand over her estate to her parents, with some additional wealth going to her siblings. However, one moment showed off the rebel at the heart of the icon as she also asked for $2,500 to be set aside for her friends to drink the night away in her memory.
She wanted to pay for 200 friends of hers to enjoy an all-night gathering at her favourite watering hole, “so my friends can get blasted after I’m gone.” Those friends arrived at the wake with Hashish brownies and doses from the Grateful Dead. It was to be one hell of a party.
For someone as young as Joplin was for her to be making an adjustment to her will speaks volumes about her mental fragility at this point in time and how she felt like she was fighting a losing battle. It remains a great travesty the story of how the world lost Joplin, who professionally was riding high and creating work that would be revered for the ages. Her accidental overdose cut one of the most distinctive and pioneering musical careers painfully short of a talent that is still missed profusely today.