Janis Joplin’s powerful performance of ‘Piece of My Heart’ from Frankfurt in 1969
We have taken a trip down the Far Out archives and unearthed this powerful footage of the great Janis Joplin performing ‘Piece Of My Heart’ from 1969 live concert in Frankfurt.
The show, which took place during Joplin’s April European tour, included a two-night residency at Frankfurt’s famous Jahrhunderthalle venue on what would turn out to be her final ever run of dates on the continent before her premature death a year later.
‘Piece Of My Heart’ was originally performed by Aretha Franklin‘s elder sister, Erma, in 1967 and was written by Bert Burns and Jerry Ragavoy. Burns had originally pleaded with Van Morrison to take the song, but the Irishman politely declined and insisted he instead wanted to focus on material which he has written. The original version was a reasonable chart success that made the Top 10 of the Billboard R&B chart. However, it wasn’t until Joplin got her distinct tones on the track that it would become the familiar favourite we all know and love.
Just a year after the original was released, Joplin along with her band Big Brother & The Holding Company, would record a cover of the track which featured on their hugely successful Cheap Thrills LP. The vocal arrangement could not be any different from Franklin’s and, if you listen to the two side-by-side, you would struggle to come to the conclusion that the two now-iconic musicians are singing the same song.
The two tracks were so different that when Erma Franklin heard Joplin’s cover on the radio she barely recognised the song. Franklin courteously said in a 1973 interview: “Her version is so different from mine that I really don’t resent it too much.”
‘Piece Of My Heart’ would become Joplin’s biggest hit while she was still alive and cemented 1969 as her breakout year, with the world knowing full well who she was before the year was out. The singer had gone from being an obscure San Franciso-based singer-songwriter to a household name thanks to her success with her band Big Brother in just a matter of years. Joplin then broke free into her own right and fastly became one of the defining voices of the decade as it was beginning to draw to a close and was set to dominate the 1970s.
Tragically, however, Joplin would succumb to an accidental overdose on heroin in 1970 which cut one of the most distinctive and pioneering musical careers painfully short. It was soon after her passing that more rare recordings would be released posthumously, a body of work that further cemented her legacy as a one of a kind talent.
Take some time out and watch this spine-tingling performance in Frankfurt of ‘Piece Of My Heart’ below.