From her very first recording, Janis Joplin had an inimitable touch to the sound that piqued people’s attention. However, it would take years of perseverance for her talent to develop and to receive the recognition it deserved.
After graduating from high school in 1960, the singer enrolled at Lamar State College of Technology in Beaumont before securing a place at the University of Texas. It was there that Joplin felt comfortable for the first time in her life and grew in confidence.
At school, she was an outcast who suffered relentless bullying. She was made fun of for her severe acne, weight, and most harrowingly, shunned for being friends with black students. While her days at the Thomas Jefferson High School were traumatic, it is where she first fell in love with the blues and decided to sing.
Together with her friends, they would entertain themselves by singing folk and blues numbers to one another, but it was never anything more than a time-killing exercise. However, when she arrived at Univerity, Joplin was finally free from the shackles of her bullies, and making music became her everything.
While studying in December 1962, Joplin recorded her first-ever official song, ‘What Good Can Drinkin’ Do’. Admittedly, she was yet to be the finished article; however, her abundant vocal flair remains mesmerising. On the recording, she introduces the track by saying: “Uh, this is a song called ‘What Good Can Drinkin’ Do’ that I wrote one night after drinkin’ myself into a stupor”.
Just a month after recording ‘What Good Can Drinkin’ Do’, Joplin decided to follow her dreams and left studying behind to start a new life in San Francisco. This time at University was formative in Joplin’s growth as a person, and suddenly she was around people who accepted her for being authentic to herself.
The University newspaper, The Daily Texan, even published a piece celebrating her individuality titled, ‘She Dares To Be Different’. The article read: “She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levis to class because they’re more comfortable, and carries her autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song, it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin“.
Joplin’s first recording from her University days is full of grit but still manages to hint at her brilliance. In fairness, she was firmly in the infancy of her artistry, which explains the greenness of ‘What Good Can Drinkin’ Do’, yet, Joplin’s familiar raspy vocals still manages to entice.
Stream the recording, below.