Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Anticipating Janis

Some people start their day with a quick jog around the block. Others prefer coffee and toast. I like to crank a little Janis. There’s just something about her tortured wail that helps me find my keys. Then again, people have been channeling the power of this vocal steamroller since 1967, when she dropped the jaw of every hippie in sight at the Monterey Pop Festival. No doubt even that enlightened crowd didn’t know what to make of her. A whirling dervish on-stage, Janis Joplin reached down deeper than most would dare and belted out The Blues in a way no white woman has before or since. Trouble is, she insisted on living the blues as well. Ostracized by all in her tiny Texas hometown, Janis Lyn Joplin found solace in Southern Comfort, sexual ecstasy and lots of Heroin. A bad batch of the latter killed her at age 27, silencing one of the most soul-burdened singers this world has ever heard. Still, as my wife reminds me, Janis is an acquired taste. Her manic bravado and distinctive screech turn off many and even among her legion of fans, she is universally misunderstood.

All of which makes me concerned about the Joplin biopic(s?) currently in production. Her tumultous life has been the object of cinematic lust since friends scattered her ashes in the Pacific Ocean. Everyone from Courtney Love to Renée Zellweger to Pink have been considered for the title role, but legal entanglements and bad karma have kept the many pitches from ever appearing at your Cineplex. Recently, producers of a $10 million independent effort cast Zooey Deschanel in the title role, but according to various internet sources, that project has stalled as well. It's a shame, really. Janis' short time on this planet was marked by euphoria and squalor, a dichotomy that can make for gripping cinema. With her deadpan stare and musical background, Deschanel was an intriguing pick. Even still, capturing the essence of 'Pearl' is a daunting task. Anything less than perfection could be construed as parody and that's an abomination fans like myself can live without. Guess I'll have to stick to my CD collection. not to mention her appearances on The Dick Cavett Show, currently available on YouTube. Hmm? Think I'm overreacting - standing guard over some dead singer's image in hopes Hollywood won't desecrate her legend? I got five words for ya: Val Kilmer IS Jim Morrison.

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