Two of the everlasting idols of the sixties spirit, Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead didn’t cross paths too many times but, on one special occasion, they delivered quite possibly the finest jam session in either of their respective careers. Below, we are dipping into the Far Out vault to look back at that extraordinary moment and reflecting on what could have been.
The summer of love in 1967 was arguably one of America’s defining moments of culture from the 20th century. The west coast positively erupted with hippie culture and it all emanated from the city of San Francisco. The California city was besieged by hippies from across the country who made their way out west so they could connect with like-0minded people and reside one of the most liberal places on earth — Haight Ashbury. A famed neighbourhood, the streets became the epicentre of the counterculture movement and also the proving grounds for some of the era’s defining musicians.
Two acts that were born out of the city’s vibrant hippie culture were The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin. The two acts would enjoy a similar beginning but sadly have two very different ends. The Dead, as they became affectionately known, were the archetypal rock group of their surroundings. Never keen to sit still, they endlessly toured and evolved their music at the same speed. No two shows were the same and they relied on the uniqueness of their output to gather an army of fans which would see them tour extensively way into the nineties. Joplin, on the other hand, also garnered a group of fans thanks to her mercurial talent but would sadly never see old age, dying at the tender age of 27.
Their similar stories of growing fame and chartered success would see the stars cross paths on several occasions, something which was accentuated by Joplin’s reported romance with Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan of the Dead. Joplin would share the stage with the band a few times in her career but one stands out above the rest, when Janis Joplin joined The Grateful Dead at the Fillmore West on June 7th, 1969.
The first time Joplin joined the band on stage came with a certain amount of trepidation, but the singer absolutely knocks it out of the park and delivers a powerhouse vocal performance. Equally, the Dead are at the top of their game too, churning out the kind of jams that would make minds swirl with glee.
It’s the type of performance which showcased everything the two acts were about. While other bands had already been lost to fame and fortune, Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead were as pure as can be and lived only for the music. In the 90 minutes or more below, you can hear every beating heart of the people involved and their souls singing in harmony.
Listen below to the moment Janis Joplin joined The Grateful Dead on stage back in 1969.