Friday, January 19, 2007

Oh Lord, Won't You Buy Me A Mercedes-Benz


Texas is hard on women and horses, so it's no surprise that Janis Joplin came from the pit of hell that is Port Arthur, a small east Texas refinery town, kicking and screaming, 64 years ago today, a true force of nature if there ever was one. If Janis hadn't existed, I would have never made it through a thousand and one break-ups. In my mind, you have two choices of songs to listen to if your heart is broken -- "Ball and Chain" or "Me and Bobby McGee." The worst the break-up, the more "Ball and Chain." One of my favorite dvds is a recording of her on the Dick Cavett show right before her death. She's hysterical and heartbreaking, the way truly funny people always are. Also, she's not wearing a trace of make-up and dressed in a boa. In an era of overdone, perfect-looking celebrities, she's as shocking today as she was so many years ago. Smart and self-efffacing, she holds her own with Mr. Cavett. The moment I love the most is when she explains male/female relationships to him in metaphor -- women being the donkeys who are chasing after the carrots men are always dangling right in front of you and then yanking away. He looks confused until she breaks it down for him and then says, I could tell you're hip and swinging by your shoes, man. He's wearing the squarest shoes in the world and they both laugh when he says, If they were good enough for my grandfather . . .

I left Texas when I was 26, right around the age that Janis died. I figured it was time to move on down the line before Texas did me in. The place doesn't leave you, though. All that scary empty space! I'm sure that's what in part made Janis so great -- molded in one of the most conservative parts of the country in those days, she broke out of it to become herself, no easy feat to be sure. I don't, she told Mr. Cavett, write songs. I make them up. She died early and lonely, claiming to want the white pickett fence fantasy as much as anything else. Thank God you don't always get what you want.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"If you don't believe there's a price/ for this sweet paradise/ just remind me to show you the scars." Bob Dylan

Cocktail Hour

Drinking music suggestion: 18 Essential Songs Janis Joplin

Benedictions and Maledictions

Happy Friday!

12 comments:

Mr. Cootie said...

No benz, snaggle puss.

Norman Mailer said...

Why did Janet ream me a new one? What a bee! (Today's NYT, Sec."B"!)

Dr. Phil said...

Janis was great at holding her own. Come on, come on, come on, come on, and take it!

Andy Ruinme said...

RIP Artie Buchwald. Maybe the funniest print guy of his generation.

Anonymous said...

The sad part is when she wanted to go home, she was still the outcast, made it to the top of her profession, went home and they still thought she was just that crzy ugly chick. Maybe that's what Jim Morrison meant when he sang Texas Radio.

Did the state ever catch up to the rest of the country? I still listen at least once a day to that blue eyed soul.

Summer Time or Down on Me I think are the songs that hooked me because of the range and power of that voice in those songs, then the rhythm guitar kicks for ten seconds then the lead then her voice "One of these mornings your going to wake up one of these times...It's looks as if everybody in this whole wide world is down on me"

One thing though even through all of the sadness that is well documented and the drugs I do believe she always knew she was bigger than Texas, no large empty scary places for her. More room to party and be what she knew she was the best soul and blues singer in her too short time.

You left Texas, but most of your memory is there. You know when I walked through Texas I simply remember the smelly dirty pimples they called mountains and further south the empty space thinking man there's a lot of room here, so I walked a day out into the emptiness; smoked some dope ate a button of peyote and left after a couple days.
Knowing it was not bigger than anywhere else i'd been, including Rhode Island, just emptier of humanity.

Anthony Hopkins said...

I love driving. I drove all the way through Texas in one day, from east to west. I'm glad I avoided the "smelly dirty pimples" that WM writes about, though. I had clean run out of Clearasil.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Texas must be rough, now that the Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent, moved there. He helped celebrate the Governor's inauguration draped in a confederate flag. I guess some things are perfectly acceptable in Texas.

paul said...

Janis was rockinMama
Cajun Queen you our2
FoxyLadyD
Shazammm!R2C2!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"But Id trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday."

I can belt that song out...not in key, mind you, but with passion. She was definitely passionate.

My Dad and I were in his green pick-up heading out to bust some beaver dams, and I had placed the cassette in the player and forwarded it to that song. He didn't seem to mind my tone deafness, but when I got to that part he said, "She did, didn't she?"

I stopped singing and said, "What? What are you talking about?"

"She traded all of her tomorrows for one single yesterday."

Great photograph, Michelle. In my mind, this photographer has captured a very strong piece of you that I can see in your writing. Of course, we are all multi-layered, but I think there is a true essence in this black and white.

Still reading.

Bart Cunher said...

Yes, it is an interesting photo. It reminds me of the joy I get from railing against someone, which is almost as much joy as I get fancying someone on my balance beam.

Anonymous said...

LOVE this picture, Michelle. Beauty at its finest. -Jill

Jon said...

The Jop, some called her. I cried when she died. She was perfect then and ever perfect-er now.