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Music

The Janis Joplin song inspired by Jimi Hendrix

@josephtaysom

Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix are often mentioned in the same breath due to both suffering a similar horrendous fate at an identical age, and their deaths occurring just a matter of weeks apart from one another. Additionally, the latter also influenced one of her most treasured tracks.

Unfortunately, there are no recordings of them together, but they were close associates and hung around in similar circles. The pair first met each other during a jam session in New York in early 1968 and immediately sparked a beautiful friendship.

Both talents took advantage of their exposure at the Monterey Pop Festival that summer and ascended to superstardom simultaneously. However, it wouldn’t be until after their respective deaths that a song by Joplin emerged, which was influenced directly by Hendrix.

Even though her 1971 posthumous album Pearl was released after the singer’s death, she had personally arranged and approved every track on the record before she shockingly passed.

‘Half Moon’ was never elected to be a single from the album, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a cherished effort. Joplin famously wasn’t much of a songwriter, with this song being penned by John Hall and his then-wife Johanna Schier.

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To say the circumstances surrounding the song were peculiar would be an understatement. Joplin had been interviewed by Schier for The Village Voice and asked the singer if the couple could write for her. Hall went on to become a Democratic politician, but, at that time, he was a struggling musician, and the opportunity to work with Joplin was one he couldn’t resist. He’d already been working on a Hendrix-like riff, and Schrier then added the lyrics on top of the track to create ‘Half Moon’, which Joplin immediately adored.

He later told SongFacts: “It was numerological and astrological in nature. And it also had an alliterative repetition that was kind of captivating. It wasn’t rhyming, exactly, but it was an internal rhyme, perhaps you could say. It’s a device that poets use and that songwriters use to not just have the end of lines rhyme or the end of verses rhyme, but to have sort of a foreshadowing of that and words inside each line.

“So my main responsibility with that song was writing the guitar lick, which I’d say was very Hendrix inspired, and then fitting the lyric to the music. Then Janis did her own job on that, fitting it to her singing style and to her band. It was very exciting to teach it to the Full Tilt Boogie Band with Janis in her living room in Marin County, California.”

Even after the amendments made by Joplin’s band to Hall’s original version, the influence of Hendrix’s work remains as clear as day, and it begs the question of how majestic a collaboration between the two members of the 27 Club could have been if they joined forces.

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