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John Frusciante discusses his love of Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin


John Frusciante makes Red Hot Chili Peppers tick. He elevates the band to a mercurial level and, with that, remains a genuine music lover with a vast array of appreciation across varying genres. His taste is kaleidoscopic, as his affection for the disparate tones of Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin prove, two figures who Frusciante holds in the highest esteem.

Frusciante is currently into his third spell in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the band lost their edge on both occasions he departed the outfit. The guitarist first quit the group in 1992, and his mental health descended into dire straits as he fell into severe heroin addiction. Sadly, his fight against opiates is something that he tragically has in common with both Cobain and Joplin.

Frusciante lost years of his life to addiction, but luckily, his tale has a happy ending, and the world kept hold of one of the most skilled guitarists of a generation. He checked into a rehab facility in 1998, and after cleaning up his problems, bassist Flea asked if he wanted to return to the band.

For Joplin and Cobain, unfortunately, their stories are devoid of that fortuity. It’s hard to disassociate their spectacular art from their heartbreaking premature deaths, and there’ll always be remembered as icons who left the world far too soon.

Due to both artists passing away at 27 years old, they are occasionally paired together in discussion despite their different genres. Earlier this year, Frusciante revealed on his radio show that a friend had asked him a “pointed question” about who he thinks is a better singer out of the duo and spoke at length in superlatives about the love he holds for them. “Kurt Cobain is absolutely one of my favourite singers ever,” the guitarist muses. “I could listen to his voice forever. It’s just endlessly fun to listen to. It’s like a synthesizer; you just never know what sounds are going to come out of it.

“But, Janis Joplin can make me cry at the drop of a hat,” Frusciante comments. “I could be listening to her, having a good time, and then all of a sudden start balling because she had a very powerful thing.”

Frusciante then diverts back to the original question and concludes: “I’m not wanting to say one person is better than another, but she’s about as effective singer emotionally as there could ever be.”

Music is subjective at its heart, but every word that Frusciante uttered is objective. The magnificent way Joplin used her voice as an instrument has never been replicated since, although many have tried. Yet, nobody has packed equivalent ripples of emotions into their tones as she did, and the sensations only amplify the more you listen to Joplin.