Janis Joplin, the enigmatic lead singer of Big Brother and The Holding Company, was far too young when she passed away. The artist was just 27 when she died from an accidental heroin overdose in 1970. Just four days before her death though, she joined premiere music writer Howard Smith from the Village Voice for a candid interview.
Much of that interview exists in the hearts and minds of her fans. Not only does she offer an unabashed view into her rock and roll life, but also some sage advice from far beyond her years. However, what’s more, is that the eclectic group at Blank on Blank have reimagined the interview as a quite brilliant animated cartoon.
The cartoon allows the viewer to digest much of the interview, which is otherwise largely tinged with sadness, in a new light. The reworked project allows us, as the audience, to either add more personality to the voices or, when faced with the heartbreaking finality of Joplin’s answers, to partition this away from our own sadness.
Howard Smith was a well-known voice in the music world. An esteemed critic, but a rather ruthless interviewer. Smith displays this across his questions which, at times, can feel deliberately leading as well as dangerously tempting. The range of subjects clearly shows that Smith wanted to focus on the climbing waves of rock stardom that were swelling around the singer, but instead, crests with the crashing pain of Joplin’s raw emotions.
Joplin expresses her sadness at music critics finding fault in her work, the pain upon learning that the ‘Women’s Lib’ movement disliked her for embracing her sexuality, suggesting that she knew she shouldn’t be so sensitive in her line of work. Janis Joplin was, by all accounts, an open book.
What transpires, therefore, is a somewhat upsetting composition of a leading interviewer doing his best to push a distinctly emotional drug-addicted artist to a huge headline. While Joplin’s answers never feel anything but authentic, this interview remains a point of sadness for her fans as she’s clearly in emotional pain – if not physical – just four days before her untimely death.
With that said, as with most things Joplin did, she did find a piece of light in the darkness of this interview. She leaves us, one of her last public comments, with some incredible advice to take with you: “You are what you settle for. Do you know what I mean? You are only as much as you settle for; if they settle for being somebody’s dishwasher that’s their own fucking problem. If you don’t settle for that and you keep fighting it, you’ll end up anything you want to be.”
Watch Janis Joplin’s last ever interview reimagined as an animated cartoon, below.