Watch Janis Joplin’s last interview before her death, reimagined in animation
The enigmatic lead singer of Big Brother and The Holding Company, AKA the wonderful Janis Joplin, was far too young when she passed away. The artist was just 27 when she died from an accidental heroin overdose in 1970. Just four days before her death though, she joined premiere music writer Howard Smith from the Village Voice for a candid interview.
Much of that interview exists in the hearts and minds of her fans as not only does she offer an unabashed view into her rock and roll life, but also some sage advice from far beyond her years. But, what’s more, is that the eclectic group at Open Culture have brought us this wonderful clip of Janis Joplin’s last ever interview reimagined as a quite brilliant animated cartoon.
The cartoon allows us to digest much of this interview which is otherwise largely tinged with sadness. Faithfully animated by PBS Digital Studio’s Blank on Blank cartoon series, it allows us as the audience to either add more persona.lity to the voices or, when faced with the heartbreaking finality of Joplin’s answers, allows us to partition this away from our own sadness.
Howard Smith was a well-known voice in the music world. An esteemed critic ut a quite ruthless interviewer. Smith displays this across his questions which can feel deliberately leading as well as dangerously tempting. The range of subjects clearly shows that Smith wanted to focus on the climbing waves of rock stardom that were swelling around the singer, but instead, crests with the crashing pain of Joplin’s raw emotions.
Joplin expresses her sadness at music critics finding fault in her work, the pain upon learning the “Women’s Lib” movement disliked her for embracing her sexuality, and that she knew she shouldn’t be so sensitive in her line of work. Janis is, by all accounts, an open book.
What transpires, therefore, is a somewhat upsetting composition of a leading interviewer doing his best to lead a distinctly emotional drug-addicted artist to a huge headline. While Joplin’s answers never feel anything but authentic, this interview remains a point of sadness for her fans as she’s clearly in emotional pain if not physical, just four days before her untimely death.
With that said, as with most things Joplin did, she did find a piece of light in the darkness of this interview. She leaves us, one of her last public comments, with some incredible advice to take with you: “You are what you settle for. Do you know what I mean? You are only as much as you settle for; if they settle for being somebody’s dishwasher that’s their own f—–‘ problem. If you don’t settle for that and you keep fighting it, you’ll end up anything you want to be.”
Watch Janis Joplin’s last ever interview reimagined as an animated cartoon below.