Janis: Little Girl Blue (MVD/FilmRise)

Janis: Little Girl Blue is a poignant and all-encompassing view into the life of an icon.


The life and tragic death of superstar Janis Joplin has been the subject of many a book and documentary, yet none of them have captured the spirit of the artist quite like Janis: Little Girl Blue. The story is from many different points of view, yet mainly through the written word by way of letters to her family during her short life of just 27 years.

The film contains some of the best Joplin footage ever seen. The interviews with her, from independent sources—including The Dick Cavett Show, are priceless. To hear her in her own words, trying to explain a lifestyle even she, herself, did not fully understand, provides insight into her psyche. The telling of her story, from her cruel beginnings in Port Arthur, Texas, to San Francisco (and back, several times), is a sad one in itself. An outcast from the rest of her peers, she was even thrown out of the school choir for not following her teacher’s instructions. Riddled with acne and glasses, and being an unshapely girl, she was unpopular and ridiculed.

Nor was Joplin always aware of her vocal gift. She discovered her ability to sing when she was 16 and 17 years old: It just came to her. Influenced by blues singers such as Otis Redding and the like, she quickly found her style. It didn’t take long after that for the right ears to hear her, and her career with her first band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, took off.

Every aspect of Joplin’s career is examined here. Members of her first two bands, Big Brother and Cosmic Blues Band, are interviewed. Appearances by Melissa Etheridge, Pink, and Kris Kristofferson, who wrote Joplin’s biggest hit, “Me and Bobby McGhee,” round out the celebrity appearances. More interesting, though, are the interviews with her siblings and a few former loves. These segments show a side of Joplin’s home life rarely seen or heard.

The live footage here is amazing. Scenes from several performances, including the Monterey Pop Festival, are electric, with Joplin, in all her vocal glory, giving each performance her all: She holds nothing back. Raw and real, the performer gave legendary shows, and, as word spread, the crowds grew larger and larger. Her rise to fame did not take long—and, unfortunately, would also not last very long. The DVD also contains special features, such as deleted and extended scenes, a Big Brother Acapella Performance, and more.

If you are a Janis Joplin fan, this DVD is a must have for your collection. It shows that fame, like everything else, has a price. For a woman who only found true happiness on a stage, the price was her life. And even though that is the case here, Joplin’s name will live on for a rock ’n’ roll eternity.

Janis: Little Girl Blue is a poignant and all-encompassing view into the life of an icon. A | Marc Farr

About Marc Farr 244 Articles
Marc Farr is the Live Music & Assignments Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. He's so invaluable to us, we've nicknamed him Mr. Music. Reach out if you have coverage ideas! "I know it's only rock and roll...but I like it!"
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