Here’s another Feel Good Friday video for you, Janis Joplin singing Big Mama Thornton’s classic “Ball and Chain” from Woodstock, 1969, the year before she died. I came thisclose to seeing her in concert two months before she died but my friend Daiva and I couldn’t get a ride to the venue. I was a year away from getting my driver’s license. Sounds pretty funny now — missing Janis because I didn’t know how to drive.
I liked her last band the best, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, because the horns punched up her music. I had a thing for sax players back in the day anyway. I always thought that if I ever had a blues band I’d want horns in it to add that extra oomph. And yes, I used to sing the blues and even tried out with a band in college — I didn’t make it, but my friend who came with me for the audition ended up with one of the musicians. I ended up alone with my bottle of Southern Comfort just like Janis did on many nights.
When I was a young hippie chick in high school I loved Janis, and I still do. She was authentic and honest and what you saw was what you got. Looking back at that time of my life I knew what she going through — being misunderstood, drugs, booze, surrounding yourself with the wrong people sometimes, people who didn’t have your best interests at heart. Janis’ pain came out in her songs, mine came out in my writing. I wrote lots of poetry back in the day and even won a few awards for it in high school and college.
Some people hated Janis’ voice but I loved it. Some people thought all she did was scream but to me her voice was raw and primal. She sang with soul and passion and she wore her heart on her sleeve. In many ways Janis was misunderstood and that was her pain. A friend of mine christened me “Loba” because he said “wild women and wolves are often misunderstood.”
So rock with Janis and think about the balls and chains in your life that are holding you back from living, that keep you sleep-walking through life. I went through a tumultuous week, but in the process got rid of a ball and chain that weighed me down and kept me stuck. The negative emotions and stress that I experienced dealing with the antics of an alcoholic studio owner ended up in my body like sludge. I felt like a toxic landfill.
My cosmic sister walks the constellations
Laughs tip toeing in between stars
Keeps lovers at her feet to remind her
that there are no more stakes where they burn witches,
only inner mounting fires.
And when Janis sings them old cosmic blues again, Mama,
(Daiva Karuza, 1972)