RIP David Bowie

British singer David Bowie died Sunday at the age of 69 after an 18-month battle with cancer. The news was posted on the artist’s official social media accounts.

 

Bowie, who was born David Robert Jones in Brixton, south London, scored his first hit in 1969 with the song “Space Oddity.” Since then he secured an enduring fanbase with his early albums “The Man Who Sold the World” and “Hunky Dory.”The singer’s breakthrough didn’t happen until 1972, when he unveiled his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, which catapulted him from “cult figure to rock icon.” Bowie made his last appearance as his alter ego at a London show on July 3 of that year. At one point during the 18-song set, he told the audience, “Of all the shows on the tour, this particular show will remain with us the longest, because not only is it the last show of the tour, it’s the last show we’ll ever do.”

In 1975, he achieved his first No. 1 hit in the U.S. with the song “Fame,” co-written by John Lennon.

Bowie also had a notable career on the silver screen, appearing in films such as “The Man Who Fell To Earth,” “Basquiat,” “The Prestige” and the cult-classic “Labyrinth,” in which he starred as Jareth the Goblin King.

Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006

Bowie released his 25th album, “Blackstar,” on Jan. 8. Additionally, the musical “Lazarus,” which he co-wrote with playwright Enda Walsh and features old and new Bowie songs, opened in December to positive reviews. It earned bragging rights as the fastest-selling Off Broadway show ever, according to The New York Times.

Bowie is survived by his model wife, Iman, their daughter Alexandria Zahra Jones, and his filmmaker son Duncan Jones, from his first marriage to Mary Angela Bowie (née Barnett).

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Jennifer Lopez Sings Touching Tribute to Selena at Billboard Latin Music Awards

Jennifer Lopez performs musical tribute to Selena performs onstage at the 2015 Billboard Latin Music AwardsJennifer Lopez brought the house down as she paid tribute to the late Selena Quintanilla-Pérez during the 2015 Billboard Latin Music Awards on Thursday evening (April 30).  Lopez played alongside Selena‘s siblings Suzette and A.B., her father Abraham, and widow Chris Pérez.

The 45-year-old entertainer took on her classics “Como La Flor,” “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” “Amor Prohibido,” “I Could Fall In Love,” and “No Me Queda Mas,” while old footage of Selena played in the background. Watch below!

Music Heals The Soul — One Year from Tragedy

Music therapy

This time last year, I didn’t have a care in the world.  My life was good, nothing to complain about.  Little did I know that my and my family’s lives would be implausibly affected later that day.

I was headed to Philadelphia for a business trip and was planning to meet my mom for dinner since she lives near(ish).  When we met up, she said she had to return a call from my aunt.  Nothing could have prepared anyone for what was on the other end of that call.

That afternoon, a car smashed into an Orlando-area KinderCare killing a child and injuring 14 others.  A story I had read about on the train between DC and Philadelphia, thinking it was tragic, but did not think anything else about it. The one child killed was my four-year-old cousin.  The rest of the day was spent is a state of shock.  I thought they must be wrong, there is no way that it could be Lily.

I come from a large, loud, crazy, and incredibly loving family.  Although we don’t see each other as often as we would like, we are always there for each other.  When we all got the news, there were texts, calls, and support from all over the country.  We all flew to Florida to be there for each other because that is the only thing that we knew to do.

Fast forward…

In the months following the heartbreak, the crying lessened, but the pain never went away.  Music has always been my happy place, but over the last year, it has been my everything. Studies show that exposure to music increases positive thought, empathy, and helping behavior.  There are songs I still can’t listen to without bursting into tear. Songs like ‘I love Rock and Roll’ and ‘Let it go’ have been forever ruined for me.

Music has not only made me feel better, it has given me my passion back. Through this blog and through experiencing music, both live and recorded, I have found an outlet.

Below is a playlist that helped me, I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but use it if you are going thorough a hard time.

Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth Honor Paul Walker in ‘See You Again’ Video

Wiz Khalifa has released the music video for his song “See You Again” and it’s a big tribute to the late Furious 7 star Paul Walker.

The rapper’s music video for his song “See You Again” debuted Sunday, showing a montage of the late actor from all of the seven “Fast and the Furious” movies.

The song features vocals from Charlie Puth and is featured during the movie . Puth tweeted “7 million hits in 2 hours. i know you are watching down on all of us paul, the whole world is thinking of you.”

Watch the video below!

Watch the First Trailer for HBO’s ‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck’ Documentary

For months now, Nirvana fans have been eagerly waiting to get a glimpse of the upcoming HBO documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, and now there’s finally a trailer. The film was made with the cooperation of both Frances Bean Cobain (who served as an excecutive producer) and Courtney Love. Watch the trailer below, and watch Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck on HBO on May 4.

Lou Reed: A New York State of Mind

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From Rolling Stone:

On the anniversary of the Velvet Underground icon’s death, a never-before-published Q&A from 1989

“There’s a bit of magic in everything,” Lou Reed once sang, “and then some loss to even things out.” Reed died exactly one year ago today at the age of 71, and although his loss will never even things out, it is an appropriate day to celebrate his enduring creative spirit and the undying magic of his inspiring musical and poetic legacy. In commemoration of the first anniversary of his death, we are presenting for the first time the complete version of a remarkable interview that Lou Reed did with contributing editor Jonathan Cott early in 1989 in New York City.

Lou Reed

Photo: Ebet Roberts/Redferns

This year marks the 25th anniversary of one of rock & roll’s most audacious and electrifying recordings. Released in 1989 and simply titled New York, Lou Reed’s fifteenth solo album unflinchingly depicted with savage indignation and the fervency of a biblical prophet an AIDS-stricken city in which friends were continually “disappearing” – a desolation row of pestilential welfare hotels; of battered wives, crack dealers, TV bigots, racist preachers and venal politicians; of kids selling plastic roses for a buck by the Lincoln Tunnel; of a Hudson River deluged with garbage; and of bloody vials washing up on city beaches. In Reed’s eyes, these were not the days of miracle and wonder, and in New York‘s “There Is No Time” he declared, “This is no time for celebration/This is no time for shaking hands/This is no time for backslapping/This is no time for marching bands.”

“First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin” Leonard Cohen had announced in his album I’m Your Man. Reed scuttled and reversed that battle plan. In his 1973 album Berlin he first composed a song cycle that described and explored not a place but rather a state of mind – an inner world of private desperation as reflected in the self-destructive lives of a couple named Caroline and Jim. Sixteen years later on New York he took on Manhattan – and New York City’s other boroughs as well – in another song cycle that shifted its perspective in order to now describe and explore an outer world of public squalor and social despair.

lou reed

The poet Kenneth Rexroth once wrote, “Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defense – the creative act.” And the miracle and wonder of New York is that rather than conveying the sense of emotional numbness and dysphoria that characterized the world of Berlin it instead, from its very first jolting chord, instantly communicated a mood of unexpected musical euphoria. With Mike Rathke and Reed himself on Pensa-Suhr custom guitars, Rob Wasserman on a Clevenger electric upright six-string bass, co-producer Fred Maher on drums, and with Velvet Underground’s Maureen Tucker playing percussion on two tracks (and Dion DiMucci adding a vocal flourish on the song “Dirty Boulevard”), New York provided a stunning example of unmediated, stripped-down, and elemental rock & roll. “You can’t beat guitars, bass and drums,” Reed remarked in his album notes, and with this tightly meshed band he gave birth to an album that was both a shattering cri de coeur and an act of creative joy.

I interviewed Lou Reed in New York’s Warner Bros. offices in early 1989. He was wearing jeans, boots, a black T-shirt, a casual gray Italian leather jacket and a Rolex watch. “It’s one of life’s little pleasures,” he told me with a laugh, adding, “it’ll last forever.” As will his words and music.

Your new album New York depicts a city that seems to be profoundly and hopelessly sick.
In my song “Endless Cycle” I say: “The bias of the father runs on through the son/and leaves him bothered and bewildered. . .The sickness of the mother runs on through the girl/leaving her small and helpless.” There are such terrible images running through the album, like in “Xmas in February,” the song about the abandoned, unemployed Vietnam vet, “the guy on the street with the sign that reads/’Please help send this vet home’/But he is home.” But he is home! I listen to that and think, Oh my God, what have I done? The images just come at you, and some of them were very hard for me to deal with.

Lou Reed

Photo: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

You know, a hundred years ago another New York poet, Walt Whitman, had something quite different to say about the city. He wrote, “Mannahatta! How fit a name for America’s great democratic island city! The word itself, how beautiful! How aboriginal! How it seems to rise with tall spires, glistening in sunshine, with such New World atmosphere, vista, and action!. . .A million people – manners free and superb – open voices – hospitality.”
He should really see it now! Every day when I go outside I see the result of the emptying of the mental hospitals, of not having enough halfway houses, of having all kinds of services cut, of backing off on funding for schools and for food for kids, of holding out on just about anything. . .and here we are. You read me Walt Whitman, so let me read you a few lines from my song “Romeo Had Juliette”: “I’ll take Manhattan in a garbage bag/with Latin written on it that says/’It’s hard to give a shit these days’/Manhattan’s sinking like a rock, into the filthy Hudson what a shock/they wrote a book about it, they said it was like ancient Rome.” And I’m trying to make you feel the situation we’re in – feel what it’s like – and I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. But what did Alfred Hitchcock say? “It’s only a movie.”

The tone of your song is sure different from the old Rodgers and Hart song “Manhattan” with its lines like, “The great big city’s a wondrous toy/Just made for a girl and boy/We’ll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy.”
[Laughing] Yeah, that kind of tacky lyric is so hilarious that it was fun to try to reinvent it. But on the other hand I also have to say that on my last album [Mistrial] I had a song that I thought was really beautiful called “Tell It to Your Heart,” and I thought it was a really nice paean to Manhattan. [“Tell it to your heart, please don’t be afraid/New York City lovers, tell it to your heart”] There’s a lovely image of my looking out across the river and seeing the neon Coca-Cola sign.

In 1929 the great Spanish poet Federico Garcia-Lorca spent a year in New York City, and in his book Poet in New York he described how he would walk around the city and see “crowds stagger sleeplessly through the boroughs as if they had just escaped a shipwreck of blood.” And like you he also tried to make people be aware of and feel the social despair and awfulness of the life he saw around him, writing, “I denounce everyone/who ignores the other half/the half that can’t be redeemed/who lift their mountains of cement/where the hearts beat/inside forgotten little animals/and where all of us will fall/in the last feast of pneumatic drills/I spit in all your faces.” This really sounds a lot like some of your songs on New York.
That’s great! That’s wonderful! You’re going to quote Lorca to me, well, I love it. Can I read back to you for a minute? In my song “Dirty Boulevard,” it says: “Give me your tired, your poor, I’ll piss on ’em/That’s what the Statue of Bigotry says/Your poor huddled masses, let’s club ’em to death/and get it over with and just dump ’em on the boulevard.” Lorca, of course, was writing during the first year of the Depression, and I think that today we’re heading toward another one. I also feel that the people who run things have knowledgeably and intentionally fucked the people who can’t possibly defend themselves – the aged, the poor, the young, the old, women. Lorca was livid about the situation, and so am I.

Pull Quote

What about the artists?
The artists can fend for themselves. I’m talking about a six-year-old kid who can’t defend himself. And let’s see: Let’s take abortion back to the Supreme Court and take that away so that women can go play with coat hangers and get really fucked up. And of course what happens here will spread. How many people have to drop dead from AIDS? Why do they think that’s not going to spread? Do they have to wait until AIDS works its way to the suburbs before the great middle class rises up and says, Ohhh! Well, everybody should be saying Ohhh! right now. These are very scary and treacherous times even though people seem to think that everything’s OK. But we’re right in the middle of it. Why do you think people are taking crack? And where do you think the crime comes from? It’s a hopeless, dead-end situation, and you’ve got to give to people, you can’t just sit there saying things are good for us. That’s an extraordinarily easy thing to say. That’s no big thing, anybody can go outside and say that.

As Lorca wrote: “The other half hears me, devouring, pissing, flying in their purity.”
Yeah, there’s this vicious non-caring or, in some cases, a cavalier non-caring under the guise of something else. It’s a complete disregard for the other guy or woman or child, and a complete rejection of any kind of humanity and an unrelieved viciousness for laughs. As Mike [Rathke] said when we were listening to the record one day, “That’s what eight years of rape does to you.”

Eight years of Ronald Reagan.
It really is the eight years of Reagan. And as I said, I’m trying to make you feel the situation we’re in. And that’s what this album is all about.

In your song “Spit It Out,” which was on your 1986 album Mistrial, you say that if there’s a rage inside you or if you get so angry that you can’t think or speak, you should “spit it out/and tell them where they can put it.” And on your new song “There Is No Time” you sing: “This is no time to Swallow Anger/This is no time to ignore hate.”
Yeah, I’m furious.

But it’s been said that you can’t really eliminate pain through anger because it’s like trying to eat yourself from the inside out, and that when you’ve eaten yourself, the eater remains and he must be eaten as well. So you always remain unsatisfied.
Look, I’m not unaware of other points of view. It’s very depressing in some ways because I’m one of those people who are doomed to continuously see the other person’s point of view. I can see why he or she is right, I can see why I could be seen as being wrong. And then there’s even a third, a fourth, a fifth point of view, and on and on. And you can just end up davening. But there are some points of view I really have, and I think that New York is a legitimate channel for them.

With regard to different points of view, I hope that you won’t mind my saying that I did take issue with one of your songs, “Good Evening Mr. Waldheim,” in which I thought that you were criticizing Jesse Jackson a bit unfairly.
Well, isn’t it nice in a rock & roll song to be able to give my position on something? I’m not trying to just get a rise out of somebody, but that’s how I feel and I’m not kidding around, and you can feel the other way, that’s your business, but we could spend the rest of our interview just debating this.

Maybe we should wait to do that till the next time around.
And of course we’re allowed to disagree.

How long did it take you to write the songs on New York?
When I sat down to write the album, I didn’t know that this was what it was going to be about. I started writing, and I’m watching what’s happening, and I would write more, and I said to myself, “I think I can detect a trend, is this what I really want to write about because it seems to be.” So that’s where it wanted to go, and I only followed.

I spent almost three months writing those words. I put my whole weight on it, and I tried to find a way to surround the words properly, to surround them with the perfect setting for the jewels, so to speak, and to get the rhythm of the words working in the right way against the beat, and then get the nuances in the vocal so that listeners could hear the words – that was the raison d’être for this album. The lyrics should sound really simple and with a really easy flow to them, but it took a lot of rewrites to get it to that point.

How much rewriting did you do?
A lot. Rewriting really makes you focus. Haggling for weeks over a word. Just focusing. I tried all the vocals out before I ever went in the studio, and I’ve gotten pretty good at this, so that if I hear it in my head I ought to be able to sing it. But when we tried it out in the studio, sometimes I couldn’t quite get it right because, as I said, there’s so much rhythm going on in the words that is supposed to be working against the beat, and I could hear it clear as a bell in my mind but I couldn’t always execute it. But whenever I found that I couldn’t do it I didn’t start tearing my lyric apart because I knew it was OK, I just knew that it was me who couldn’t get into it, so we would keep at it until I did it right. It took hours sometimes, and it was maddening because I got so caught up trying to do it right that I’d lose the feel and the meaning of the words.

Lou Reed

Photo: Left to right clockwise: Ebet Roberts/Redferns, Richard E. Aaron/Redferns, Frans Schellekens/Redferns

In the 1950s, some poets were reciting poetry to jazz, but for the most part I don’t think it worked very well because it often sounded too self-conscious and arty.
That’s funny, you’re the second person to make that comparison to what I was trying to do with my album. And I think it does try to do something like that but I hope it does a lot more because it should be rock & roll, and New York is definitely a “quote” rock & roll record, but it’s my vision of what a rock & roll record can be. It doesn’t have to be a 24-hours-below-the-belt type of experience all the time, though you should certainly be able to tap your foot to it and still follow it.

If the almost hilarious ferocity of the lyrics don’t stop you dead in your tracks, I think that you could probably dance to your song “Hold On” with its Bo Diddley beat and your ecstatic guitar riff.
Yeah, that’s one where the initial part of the song wasn’t outstanding, but through the wonders of playing together, we stumbled on this very nice lick, and the really heavy-duty overdrive – the overloading of the amp – really takes your head off.

What kind of rock & roll have you been listening to recently?
I don’t find that much to listen to that works for me at the moment, but every once in a while I hear a song that just lays me out. Bob Dylan’s recent album [Down in the Groove] has a song on it that really killed me. It’s called “Ninety Miles an Hour (Down a Dead End Street),” and in just that small amount of words the image is so devastating. I love stuff like that, and I try to fill my lyrics with things that are that immediate. It comes from being a fan of Raymond Chandler, like his line, “That blonde was as attractive as a split lip.” It’s the visualization and the simplicity of the words. You say, “Oh my God, how do you do that?”

You have a lot of devastating images and words in New York. How do you think people will respond to them?
I just can’t get involved with people telling me, Well, if you use this language you won’t get on the radio and you won’t get it on the Bible Belt, blah, blah, blah. You know, what’s interesting about my situation is that unlike musicians like Clapton, Winwood and so on, I’ve never gotten popular. I’m what they call a cult figure, and that’s about where it is. Except for “Walk on the Wild Side,” which was a fluke. I don’t have any overwhelming popularity, and I’m certainly not what you’d call a household word. I don’t sell that many records, so there can’t be so many people out there with an image of me. And I’ve been around so long that in any case an image must be kind of boring by now.

To your audience or to you?
To anyone. I mean, at this point what possible use could it be? I remember a reporter who once called me up and asked me all about my supposed “shocking” image. And I said to him, “Oh, come on, please, you’re so parochial! Give us all a break.” I mean, there’s nothing shocking about “Wild Side” or any of my other songs. If you compare them with the writings of Hubert Selby Jr., William Burroughs or Allen Ginsberg, none of my songs would be considered shocking. But it’s just that this material is in rock & roll – so it’s that rock journalist’s problem not mine. And you know, I never thought that songs like “Heroin” or “Street Hassle” were pro-drug songs.

Some people think that in a way this tradition all began with Arthur Rimbaud’s notion of the “reasoned derangement of all the senses.”
Look, I’m 46 years old now and I can’t be bothered with that kind of stuff. And if I’m less concerned right now with deranging all the senses, as you were calling it, let’s just say that I might call it just growing up.

It sounds pretentious to say this, but I’m writing for an educated or self-educated person who has reached a certain level. I’m not aiming New York for 14-year-olds. See, I don’t sell many records, so I know that the people who do buy them really want to hear them. And in my liner notes I say: there are 14 songs and the album is 58 minutes, so try to listen to it the first time from the beginning to the end because it was written, God forbid, around a theme, and the theme is running through it in a very specific order and is very tightly focused track-by-track, and the effect builds. So of you take one song out of context and put it on one of my other albums, you would get “x” effect, but when you listen to it here, where you have one song right after another coming at you, then you don’t lose the effect of the song that came before, it’s amplified, so that about three-quarters of the way through the album you go, Whoa!

How did you go about recording New York?

Almost all of the songs were done live, and we recorded them at Media Sound in New York in a tiny little room with an old Neve board. In the past, I’ve often had problems coming to grips with the technology in the studio, and it’s taken years for me to learn how to use it as a tool and to get what I want out of it. Like sometimes I’ve wanted “x” out of it and at other times I’ve wanted “y” and often the two conflicted. Especially the conflict between the sound and the voice. Sometimes when I had multitudinous guitar parts I found out in retrospect that instead of expanding the thoughts they canceled each other out.

I mean, when we were recording New York there were instances in the studio when I’d come with yet the fiftieth guitar part and we’d then have to spend time taking things out. I would put down this guitar lick and go, “Ah hah, listen to the tone of this, how do you like that part?” And Fred [Maher] or Mike [Rathke] would say to me, “It’s a great part but unfortunately it just knocked the bass out and it’s stepping all over the other guitar part and you can’t hear either one now.” “But don’t you love it? I’d say [laughing] and they’d say, “We love it but. . .” So the nice thing about our going minimal was that you could then hear the guitars and all the parts and the words and the full breath of the voice. But the dangerous thing about going minimal is that you’d better be good because your voice isn’t going to be layered under tons of things.

You’ve always had a totally identifiable “Lou Reed voice.”
Some people may not like my voice, though I think it has character. But it took me a while to get to the point where I could become a fan of my voice so that I was comfortable with it and could understand how it worked and what it was about and how to hear it, though sometimes I realized that I could hear something in it that the other guy couldn’t. But I didn’t want my records to sound as if the voice was over here while the music seemed to be in the next room over there. And on the other hand, I didn’t want the voice to be buried so that God knows how anyone could figure out the words. I wanted you to be able to hear the words, and it’s taken a long time and a lot of experience in the studio to get it so that it sounds like me. Because I always wanted it to sound like me, and that’s not so easy. Not so easy.

The playwright and actor Sam Shepard recently remarked “the trouble with modern rock & roll is that it’s lost its sense of humor. It’s become so morbidly stylistic and sour – there’s no joy in it. And I think it’s disastrous that a genuine sense of humor has been smothered.” And he added: “Take all those imitators of Lou Reed, for example: if they went back and listened to his early stuff, they’d see he had a whole different feel. . .plus he was a helluva writer. He could really write a lyric. He’s been ripped off left, right, and center.”
Why the word “was”? [Laughing] But that’s nice of Sam.

Do you think you’ve been ripped off?
No, not for a second. I mean, everybody’s heard everybody else, so many people are playing on the same sources. But it is sometimes kind of weird: I’ll hear a group, and they’ll be good, and I’m listening to them and realize that they sound like me. But in some ways it’s like a “me” from a certain time, and it’s weird because I’m over here now and I can’t do that particular thing anymore, although I still enjoy it. But why wouldn’t they want to do that, there’s a lot to be said for that approach to things. I just wish that they would imitate it more and really get into the words, but you’ve got to know how to use them to do it.

Someone once said that a masterpiece’s function is to create the energy for other people to create other masterpieces.
I’ll settle for that. It’s good to have examples and standards to try to either try to live up to or surpass. And in my life there have been some really important things that once someone bothered to tell or show me or give me an example of made things very clear and simple. At any point in my life if I heard someone else’s song, it might have seemed so simple, but it really wasn’t until I really knew it. Or to take another example: If you want to drink a bottle of club soda out of a cup, pick up the bottle and don’t lift it over here and pour it over there but rather pour it over the cup. And something simple like that can be applicable to, say, an esthetic or a life. You say: Oh, right! And then you do it that way from that point on.

I remember a friend once offered me some very simple but wonderful advice, namely that you should never smoke while you urinate and that you should come when you’re called.
[Laughing] Well, this plumber out where I live said to me, “Don’t believe anything you hear and half of what you see.” He was serious – you know, small-town wisdom. And of course then there are other pieces of advice like “Don’t shit where you sleep.”

Or don’t spit in the wind. In your song “Strawman” you say, “Spitting in the wind comes back at you twice as hard.”
I went a long time trying to figure out whether it should be piss or spit and decided that spit was better. That’s one of life’s little things that you learn – you don’t spit in the wind. You also don’t get a mace gun and use it in the wind. So you can take this on all the different levels.

In your beautiful song “Coney Island Baby” you say that although the city is “something like a circus or a sewer,” one can still look up to see the “princess on the hill” and that the “glory of love just might come through.” But on New York one doesn’t sense the possibility of salvation, and some people might take it to be extremely nihilistic.

But it would be a shame if that’s all they got out of the album. I think that people should be getting together and do something about the situation I’m describing. That’s the salvation of it. Look at what’s going on and then do something about it. Besides, don’t people realize that the album’s also funny, “leavened with humor”? [Laughing]

I really had to laugh at some of the lines in “Last Great American Whale” such as, “Some say they saw him at the Great Lakes/Some say they saw him off the coast of Florida/My mother said she saw him in Chinatown/But you can’t always trust your mother.” You know, Oedipus might have felt exactly the same way about his mother!
[Laughing] That’s hilarious! And I think that some of the worst comments in the songs on New York are also hilariously funny at the same time. Some of the lines in “Hold On,” for example, are straight out of the news, like, “They shot that old lady/ ’cause they thought she was a witness/to a crime she didn’t even see” or “A cop was shot in the head by a 10-year-old kid named Buddha in/Central Park last week.” I mean, what? And things like that are kind of funny in a very depressing way. We’re so dulled to this. Take for instance the building that collapsed the other day in Manhattan. The builders who were there, unlicensed with no permit, noticed a crack in the foundation as they were digging. So what do these large minds do? They dig a trench and then they put cinder blocks there, and the building collapses and I think it kills the owner of the building and a poor girl is caught under it. And they only have three inspectors to check on this shit! Isn’t this hilarious at the same time that it’s the worst thing you’ve ever heard?

You don’t have to make anything up. In “Sick of You” I say: “I was up in the morning with the TV blarin’/brush my teeth sittin’ watchin’ the news/All the beaches were closed the ocean was a Red Sea/but there was no one there to part in two/There was no fresh salad because/there’s hypos in the cabbage/Staten Island disappeared at noon/And they say the Midwest is in great distress/and NASA blew up the moon/The ozone layer has no ozone anymore/and you’re gonna leave me for the guy next door.”

That last line, which you sing with a little question mark on the word “door,” really made me laugh, but there are a lot of your songs that make me laugh. One of my favorites is “High in the City” from your underappreciated 1984 album New Sensations in which you describe a couple – one of whom is carrying some mace, the other a knife – “hitting the streets” one night but avoiding walking down Sutton Place because “everybody there got an Akita,” and as one advises the other, “Watch out for that guy on your right/Seen him on the news last Saturday night/He was high in the city.”
Ah, you know that song, I’m so happy to hear that. I also thought it was so funny, but no one’s ever mentioned to me that they thought it was funny. People don’t seem to get it.

On that album you also have another wonderful song called “My Friend George” in which you sing about a childhood friend who likes music but who also likes to fight, and he tells you “Avenge yourself for humanity/Avenge yourself for the weak and the poor” and then says “Well, the fight is my music. . .Can’t you hear the music playing, the anthem, it’s my call.”
That’s my favorite song on that album. I remember that when we were recording it, the engineer turned to me and said, “Do you have a friend named George?” And I said, “Of course not.” One of the nice things about being a writer is that you can have a friend named George.

But do you think that, like George, the fight is your music and that the anthem is your call?
I’d have to think about that for a while. Well, in fact I have been thinking about whether that is my call, and if it is I should be doing more than what I’m doing, like one record every two or three years is really not a lot.

Lou Reed

Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images

But your album New York is your fifteenth solo album. That’s a career!
But that’s nothing because the songs and the writing and the stuff in my head don’t stop just because I’ve done an album. I love playing around with words so much and putting them to music, and I do get such a great kick out of the guitar, but I really should move into poetry or short stories. Someone will say I should do a book, and I get close to it and then I back away from it. But it’s not for lack of time, and it’s not for not having it in my head, because it sometimes goes on all day, it just doesn’t stop. Like I could go right back in the studio and do another album, and it’s kind of a shame that you can’t do that. But generally speaking I have to say that with most of my albums I’ve felt that I was behind myself, that the albums didn’t represent where I really was when they came out. But on New York I’m not behind myself – that’s where I am, that’s what I’m capable of doing. On this album it wasn’t a question of if I had more time or if I had more money I would redo this or that. We had all the time we needed to record it, and when the sessions ended, we all knew it was over. I gave it my best shot.

I personally think that the most astonishing song on New Sensations – and it must be one of the most remarkable songs you’ve ever written – is “Fly Into the Sun” in which you express an apocalyptic longing for self-dissolution. The song begins: “I would not run from the holocaust/I would not run from the bomb/I’d welcome the chance/To meet my maker/And fly into the sun./I’d break up into a million pieces/And fly into the sun.”
Ah, well, yeah, it is apocalyptic. I work so hard on the words so that they’ll come out a certain way. I mean, it’s just the pleasure and the flow of them, and then you get into the thought. And it’s so odd to me that people don’t seem to get it, they don’t understand it. You know, I do the records for myself but it’s so nice to find out that that sometimes there are people who get something from them.

In that song you also say: “I would not run from the blazing light/I would not run from its rain/I’d see it as an end to misery/As an end to worldly pain.” There’s a lot of humor in your songs, and occasionally some perfect days, but there’s also a lot of pain – “rage, pain, anger, hurt” as you say in your new song “Beginning of a Great Adventure.”
Well, those are the emotions I was most familiar with.

Those are also the emotions that most infants and young children experience.
Except that they get pleasure too.

But you’re saying that you don’t?
I’m just saying that I didn’t.

At the risk of being too personal, do you remember much about your earliest years?
No, but I’m glad.

But you do contact and touch on childhood feelings in some of your songs.
Well, I think that the artist re-approaches and goes back to all these things, asking questions like, What happened? What went on? Why am I this way? And what can I get from this? How can I use it for something? Can I get energy from it? How can I do something with it that isn’t self-destructive? How can I speak of it maybe to other people who also feel that way? But I’ve found out about myself, and I’m not just one thing, I’m a whole slew of things. And when you write, you can leap into one particular pocket, as though that’s you, but of course it isn’t, even though for a song it may be.

My song “Legendary Hearts,” for example, is one of my saddest. It’s about not being able to live up to being an image of a Romeo with a Juliet. The girl in the song says, “Romeo, oh, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo,” but “he’s in a car or at a bar/or churning his blood with an impure drug/He’s in the past and seemingly lost forever.” And a lot of people are like that.

I’m reminded of the lines in your new song “Romeo Had Juliette”: “The perfume burned his eyes, holding tightly to her thighs/and something flickered for a minute and then it vanished and was gone.”
Isn’t that sad? Every time people say to me “Romeo and Juliet,” I say, No, it’s “Romeo had Juliet” because I meant in the sexual way – it flickered for a minute and was gone. But of course that flicker is better than nothing.

Someone once remarked that a poem is either a kiss or a punch in the nose. There are a lot of punches on this album, but there doesn’t seem to be a love song on it.

But there certainly is! If you look at the last song, “Dime Store Mystery,” which is dedicated to Andy Warhol – whom I really miss and was privileged to have known – you’ll find the line: “I wish I hadn’t thrown away my time on so much Human and so much less Divine.” I think that that’s one of the most stunning lines that I’ve ever written in my life, and I’m enormously proud of it. So when you say that there’s no love song on the album. . .well, its very true that there’s no moon and spoon, but though it might sound tacky to put it like this I think that “Dime Store Mystery” is a supreme love song, and I’m talking about a love song to a vision of spirituality.

I gather that “Dime Story Mystery” was influenced by your having seen the film The Last Temptation of Christ, which was Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’s controversial novel of the same name.
What happened was that for years I had the title “Dime Store Mystery,” along with a few lines, but I was never able to complete the song. And one night I happened to watch a television interview with Marty in which he was talking about his film, which I hadn’t yet seen. The film was already being boycotted and censored and banned here and abroad, and Marty was defending his point of view in the most gracious and articulate manner that one could possibly imagine. And I was so struck by some of the things he was saying about the duality of Godly nature and human nature that I started writing them down, and I said to myself, That’s what this song should be about. And I made the title “Dime Story Mystery, The Last Temptation.”

So I wrote down a version of the song, and then I finally saw the film when Marty invited me to a private screening so that his friends didn’t have to get killed by pickets [laughing], and I sent the lyrics to him and told him that the film had really inspired me and that was how I came to write the song. And I thought that the song was done, but then I woke up one morning at six o’clock and my mind was saying, “That’s not you at all, it’s not right.” So I sat up and started talking to myself and said, “Well what is it? Tell me what I should do.” And then I rewrote the song again and yet again until I possessed it and felt that it was more mine and wasn’t completely about the film.

The song talks about the physical against the spiritual, and about Vishnu and Buddha, and then all of a sudden it goes Whomp! and there’s a big switch and you’re in the present and you’re talking about being in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. . .and OK, what are you doing in St. Patrick’s? Well, somebody must have died and there’s going to be a funeral there the next day and “the bells will ring for you” [Andy Warhol’s funeral took place at St. Patrick’s on April 1, 1987], and this is told with the greatest amount of love.

In the title song of New Sensations, you say: “I want the principles of a timeless muse/I want to eradicate my negative views/And get rid of those people who are always on a down.”
Ah! You probably want to know if those lines trumpet a new, mellow Lou?

Actually, I was going to ask you about the “timeless muse.” Who or what is that muse
Ah!

Is it the “princess on the hill” whom you mention in “Coney Island Baby”?
The timeless muse for me is. . .well, let me get into a personal thing for a minute: There was a time in my life when the ability to write wouldn’t be there anymore, and I’d be panicked, thinking: It’s gone, it’s gone forever, it’ll never be back. I was confused about where the talent came from, how it functioned, what it could do, what it didn’t want to do, and where it was, and how it worked. And I thought of my friend, the poet Delmore Schwartz – God bless his soul – who wrote a wonderful essay on Hamlet. Some of his essays are kind of dismissed as lesser Delmore, but I think of them as higher Delmore, and moreover he said “Even paranoids have enemies” and a lot of other worthy things [laughing]. But in his Hamlet essay he points out that Hamlet came from an old upper-class family and began saying very disturbing things to his friend Horatio, such as: A woman is like a cantaloupe, open it and it starts to rot. And in this particular essay Delmore said that the real secret about Hamlet is that he was a manic-depressive, and a manic-depressive just is – like being right-handed or having brown hair. And that was the essence of Hamlet. It’s either that or you view the play as though everybody is drunk from beginning to end.

So in my particular case, I finally realized that my talent just is – I didn’t have to worry about it going away, I didn’t have to do anything to try to amplify it or make things happen. All I had to do was just sit there and go about my business, and that I could do it like hanging upside down in a gym in gravity boots, and it would always be there for me. And then some days it isn’t, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be there in an hour. The day I understood that I went through major changes, but it took a very long time for me to do so. In my album New Sensations I said that I wanted it to be there – I wasn’t in touch with it at that point. But since then I am, which is just a blessing, because I had a little dream and I got it.

So who or what, ultimately, is the timeless muse?
The timeless muse for me is to be able to tune in or to have that thing just show up for me, and I am so, so lucky because I enjoy doing this kind of stuff so much. I want to be in touch with the timeless muse and I have to follow it because I get enormous satisfaction out of it. I did Honda and American Express commercials just so I can continue to make albums like New York and take the time off to write the way I really want to. But I don’t have to be a big shot or rich. All I want to do is more. And I’ve got a motorcycle, see, and I can take off into the hills with it, and I really like that a lot.

In New York the Lou Reed image doesn’t exist, as far as I’m concerned. This is me speaking as directly as I possibly can to whoever hopefully wants to listen to it. If someone accuses me of attacking my former image and says: “Oh, but you once said. . .” then all I can now say is: “And what did you once say? And what did we all once say? And what might I say tomorrow?”

 

Former Cream Bassist Jack Bruce Dies from Liver Disease

Featured Image

Jack Bruce, Cream’s former bassist, songwriter and singer, has died of liver disease at the age of 71.

“It is with great sadness that we, Jack’s family, announce the passing of our beloved Jack: husband, father, granddad, and all round legend,” his family said in a statement, according to The Guardian. “The world of music will be a poorer place without him but he lives on in his music and forever in our hearts.”

Bruce was the principal singer and songwriter in Cream, co-writing hits including “White Room” and “Sunshine of Your Love” with lyricist Pete Brown. He had an ongoing rivalry with drummer Ginger Baker that guitarist Eric Clapton was often helpless to stop.

Bruce struggled with drug addiction and financial troubles in the 1970s after Cream’s breakup, but continued to play as a session musician and as part of small groups. In 2003 he underwent a liver transplant after being diagnosed with cancer, and played with a reunited Cream for a series of shows in 2005.

[The Guardian]

This Day in Music History — October 12

1978 : Sid Vicious of The Sex Pistols is arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, who he found dead in the bathroom of their hotel room with a stab wound to her abdomen. Vicious died of a heroin overdose before he could be tried for the murder.

1997 : John Denver, an avid amateur pilot who loves flying experimental aircraft, is the victim of a fatal plane crash. The airplane he flies has a fuel selection valve behind the pilot’s head, forcing him to balance on the right rudder in order to switch tanks. That day, Denver leaves the airport with less fuel than he should have. He hits the right rudder when attempting to switch tanks, causing him to plow into the Pacific Ocean.

2003 : Rapper 50 Cent takes home all five trophies for which he is nominated at the World Music Awards, held in Monaco. Russian teen duo t.A.T.u. picks up three awards, while Norah Jones and Eminem win two.

2013 : Pharrell Williams marries the model Helen Lasichanh. She would inspire several tracks on his 2014 album G I R L, including the song “It Girl.”

 

RIP Janice Joplin

Today in History: Rock singer Janis Joplin, 27, was found dead in her Hollywood hotel room. Here is one of the best long form articles written about Janice. Also click here for the essential Janice Joplin playlist.

Janis Joplin On Her Own Terms

Her transformation rom the ugly duckling of Port Harbor to the peacock of Haight-Ashbury

 Janis Joplin on the cover of Rolling Stone.
David Gahr
Janis Joplin on the cover of Rolling Stone.

BY | November 18, 1976

Janis Joplin was born in 1943 and grew up in Port Arthur, Texas. She began singing in bars and coffeehouses, first locally, then in Austin, where she spent most of a year at the University of Texas. In 1966, she went to San Francisco and got together with a rock band in search of a singer. Big Brother and the Holding Company. The following summer Big Brother performed at the Monterey Pop Festival; Janis got raves from the fans and the critics and from then on she was a star. ‘Cheap Thrills’, Big Brother’s first major album (there had been an early record on a small-time label), came out in July 1968. By then there were tensions between Janis and the group, and she left soon afterward.

With her new backup band she made another album, ‘I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!’ But the band never quite jelled, and in the spring of 1970, Janis formed another, Full-Tilt Boogie. They spent most of the summer touring, then went to Los Angeles to record an album, ‘Pearl’. It was Janis’s last. On October 4th, 1970, she died of an overdose of heroin.

* * *

The hippie rock stars of the late Sixties merged two versions of that hardy American myth, the free individual. They were stars, which meant achieving liberation by becoming rich and famous on their own terms; and they were, or purported to be, apostles of cultural revolution, a considerably more ambitious and romantic vision of freedom that nevertheless had a similar economic foundation. Young Americans were in a sense the stars of the world, drawing on an overblown prosperity that could afford to indulge all manner of rebellious and experimental behavior. The combination was inherently unstable – Whitman’s open road is not, finally, the Hollywood Freeway, and in any case neither stardom nor prosperity could deliver what it seemed to promise. For a fragile historical moment rock transcended those contradictions; in its aftermath our pop heroes found themselves grappling, like the rest of us, with what are probably enduring changes in the white American consciousness – changes that have to do with something very like an awareness of tragedy. It is in this context that Janis Joplin developed as an artist, a celebrity, a rebel, a woman, and it is in this context that she died.

Joplin belonged to that select group of pop figures who mattered as much for themselves as for their music; among American rock performers she was second only to Bob Dylan in importance as a creator/recorder/embodiment of her generation’s history and mythology. She was also the only woman to achieve that kind of stature in what was basically a male club, the only Sixties culture hero to make visible and public women’s experience of the quest for individual liberation, which was very different from men’s. If Janis’s favorite metaphors – singing as fucking (a first principle of rock and roll) and fucking as liberation (a first principle of the cultural revolution) – were equally approved by her male peers, the congruence was only on the surface. Underneath – just barely – lurked a feminist (or prefeminist) paradox.

The male-dominated counterculture defined freedom for women almost exclusively in sexual terms. As a result, women endowed the idea of sexual liberation with immense symbolic importance; it became charged with all the secret energy of an as yet suppressed larger rebellion. Yet to express one’s rebellion in that limited way was a painfully literal form of submission. Whether or not Janis understood that, her dual personalusty hedonist and suffering victim – suggested that she felt it. Dope, another term in her metaphorical equation (getting high as singing as fucking as liberation) was, in its more sinister aspect, a pain-killer and finally a killer, Which is not to say that the good times weren’t real, as far as they went. Whatever the limitations of hippie/rock star life, it was better than being a provincial matron – or a lonely weirdo.

For Janis, as for others of us who suffered the worst fate that can befall an adolescent girl in America – unpopularity – a crucial aspect of the cultural revolution was its assault on the rigid sexual styles of the Fifties. Joplin’s metamorphosis from the ugly duckling of Port Arthur to the peacock of Haight-Ashbury meant, among other things, that a woman who was not conventionally pretty, who had acne and an intermittent weight problem and hair that stuck out, could not only invent her own beauty (just as she invented her wonderful sleazofreak costumes) out of sheer energy, soul, sweetness, arrogance, and a sense of humor, but have that beauty appreciated. Not that Janis merely took advantage of changes in our notions of attractiveness; she herself changed them. It was seeing Janis Joplin that made me resolve, once and for all, not to get my hair straightened. And there was a direct line from that sort of response to those apocryphal burned bras and all that followed.

Direct, but not simple. Janis once crowed, “They’re paying me $50,000 a year to be like me.” But the truth was that they were paying her to be a personality, and the relation of public personality to private self – something every popular artist has to work out – is especially problematic for a woman. Men are used to playing roles and projecting images in order to compete and succeed. Male celebrities tend to identify with their mask-making, to see it as creative and – more or less – to control it. In contrast, women need images simply to survive. A woman is usually aware, on some level, that men do not allow her to be her “real self,” and worse, that the acceptable masks represent men’s fantasies, not her own. She can choose the most interesting image available, present it dramatically, individualize it with small elaborations, undercut it with irony. But ultimately she must serve some male fantasy to be loved – and then it will be only the fantasy that is loved anyway. The female celebrity is confronted with this dilemma in its starkest form. Joplin’s revolt against conventional femininity was brave and imaginative, but it also dovetailed with a stereotype – the ballsy, one-of-the-guys chick who is a needy, vulnerable cream puff underneath – cherished by her legions of hip male fans. It may be that she could have pushed beyond it and taken the audience with her; that was one of the possibilities that made her death an artistic as well as human calamity. There is, for instance, the question of her bisexuality. People who knew Janis differ on whether sexual relationships with women were an important part of her life, and I don’t know the facts. In any case, a public acknowledgment of bisexual proclivities would not necessarily have contradicted her image; it could easily have been passed off as more pull-out-the-stops hedonism or another manifestation of her all-encompassing need for love. On the other hand, she could have used it to say something new about women and liberation. What makes me wonder is something I always noticed and liked about Janis: unlike most female performers whose act is intensely erotic, she never made me feel as if I were crashing an orgy that consisted of her and the men in the audience. When she got it on at a concert, she got it on with everybody.

Still, the songs she sang assumed heterosexual romance; it was men who made her hurt, who took another little piece of her heart. Watching men groove on Janis, I began to appreciate the resentment many black people feel toward whites who are blues freaks. Janis sang out of her pain as a woman, and men dug it. Yet it was men who caused the pain, and if they stopped causing it they would not have her to dig. In a way, their adulation was the cruelest insult of all. And Janis’s response – to sing harder, get higher, be worshiped more – was rebellious, acquiescent, bewildered all at once. When she said, “Onstage I make love to 25,000 people, then I go home alone,” she was not merely repeating the cliché of the sad clown or the poor little rich girl. She was noting that the more she gave the less she got, and that honey, it ain’t fair.

Like most women singers, Joplin did not write many songs; she mostly interpreted other people’s. But she made them her own in a way few singers dare to do. She did not sing them so much as struggle with them, assault them. Some critics complained, not always unfairly, that she strangled them to death, but at her best she whipped them to new life. She had an analogous adversary relationship with the musical form that dominated her imagination – the blues. Blues represented another external structure, one with its own contradictory tradition of sexual affirmation and sexist conservatism. But Janis used blues conventions to reject blues sensibility. To sing the blues is a way of transcending pain by confronting it with dignity, but Janis wanted nothing less than to scream it out of existence. Big Mama Thornton’s classic rendition of “Ball and Chain” carefully balances defiance and resignation, toughness and vulnerability. She almost pities her oppressor: “I know you’re gonna miss me, baby . . . You’ll find that your whole life will be like mine, all wrapped up in a ball and chain.” Her singing conveys, above all, her determination to survive abuse. Janis makes the song into one long frenzied, despairing protest. Why, why, why,she asks over and over, like a child unable to comprehend injustice. “It ain’t fair . . . this can’t be . . . I just wanted to hold you . . . All I ever wanted to do was to love you.” The pain is overwhelming her, “draggin’ me down . . . maybe, maybe you can help me – c’mon help me.” There are similar differences between her recording of “Piece of My Heart” and Erma Franklin’s. When Franklin sings it, it is a challenge: no matter what you do to me, I will not let you destroy my ability to be human, to love. Joplin seems rather to be saying, surely if I keep taking this, if I keep setting an example of love and forgiveness, surely he has to understand, change, give me back what I have given.

Her pursuit of pleasure had the same driven quality; what it amounted to was refusal to admit of any limits that would not finally yield to the virtue of persistence – try just a little bit harder – and the magic of extremes. This war against limits was largely responsible for the electrifying power of Joplin’s early performances; it was what made Cheap Thrills a classic, in spite of unevenness and the impossibility of duplicating on a record the excitement of her concerts. After the split with Big Brother, Janis retrenched considerably, perhaps because she simply couldn’t maintain that level of intensity, perhaps for other reasons that would have become clear if she had lived. My uncertainty on this point makes me hesitate to be too dogmatic about my conviction that leaving Big Brother was a mistake.

I was a Big Brother fan. I thought they were better musicians than their detractors claimed, but more to the point, technical accomplishment, in itself, was not something I cared about. I thought it was an ominous sign that so many people did care – including Janis. It was, in fact, a sign that the tenuous alliance between mass culture and bohemianism – or, in my original formulation, the fantasy of stardom and the fantasy of cultural revolution – was breaking down. But the breakdown was not as neat as it might appear. For the elitist concept of “good musicianship” was as alien to the holistic, egalitarian spirit of rock and roll as the act of leaving one’s group the better to pursue one’s individual ambition was alien to the holistic, egalitarian pretensions of the cultural revolutionaries. If Joplin’s decision to go it alone was influenced by all the obvious professional/commercial pressures, it also reflected a conflict of values within the counterculture itself – a conflict that foreshadowed its imminent disintegration. And again, Janis’s femaleness complicated the issues, raised the stakes. She had less room to maneuver than a man in her position, fewer alternatives to fall back on if she blew it. If she had to choose between fantasies, it made sense for her to go with stardom as far as it would take her.

Discography

Janis Joplin, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! (Columbia 9913; *5, 1969). Pearl (Columbia 30322; *1, 1971).

Joplin in Concert (Columbia 33160; *4, 1972). Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits (Columbia 32168; *37, 1973). Janis (Soundtrack) (Columbia 33345; *54, 1975).

Big Brother and the Holding Company, Big Brother and the Holding Company (Mainstream 56099; *60, 1967). Big Brother and the Holding Company,Cheap Thrills (Columbia 9700; *1, 1968).

(Chart positions taken from Joel Whitburn’s Record Research, compiled from Billboard Pop and LPs charts.)

But I wonder if she really had to choose, if her choice was not in some sense a failure of nerve and therefore of greatness. Janis was afraid Big Brother would hold her back, but if she had thought it was important enough, she might have been able to carry them along, make them transcend their limitations. There is more than a semantic difference between a group and a backup band. Janis had to relate to the members of Big Brother as spiritual (not to mention financial) equals even though she had more talent than they, and I can’t help suspecting that that was good for her not only emotionally and socially but aesthetically. Committed to the hippie ethic of music-for-the-hell-of-it–if only because there was no possibility of their becoming stars on their own – Big Brother helped Janis sustain the amateur quality that was an integral part of her effect. Their zaniness was a salutary reminder that good times meant silly fun–remember “Caterpillar”? – as well as Dionysiac abandon; it was a relief from Janis’s extremism and at the same time a foil for it. At their best moments Big Brother made me think of the Beatles, who weren’t (at least in the beginning) such terrific musicians either. Though I’m not quite softheaded enough to imagine that by keeping her group intact Janis Joplin could somehow have prevented or delayed the end of an era, or even saved her own life, it would have been an impressive act of faith. And acts of faith by public figures always have reverberations, one way or another.

Such speculation is of course complicated by the fact that Janis died before she really had a chance to define her post-San Francisco, post-Big Brother self. Her last two albums, like her performances with the ill-fated Kozmic Blues band, had a tentative, transitional feel. She was obviously going through important changes; the best evidence of that was “Me and Bobby McGee,” which could be considered her “Dear Landlord.” Both formally – as a low-keyed, soft, folkie tune – and substantively – as a lyric that spoke of choices made, regretted and survived, with the distinct implication that compromise could be a positive act – what it expressed would have been heresy to the Janis Joplin of Cheap Thrills. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” is as good an epitaph for the counterculture as any; we’ll never know how – or if – Janis meant to go on from there.

Janis Joplin’s death, like that of a fighter in the ring, was not exactly an accident. Yet it’s too easy to label it either suicide or murder, though it involved elements of both. Call it rather an inherent risk of the game she was playing, a game whose often frivolous rules both hid and revealed a deadly serious struggle. The form that struggle took was incomplete, shortsighted, egotistical, self-destructive. But survivors who give in to the temptation to feel superior to all that are in the end no better than those who romanticize it. Janis was not so much a victim as a casualty. The difference matters.

This story is from the November 18th, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone.