Monday, January 15, 2007

one of these mornings, you're going to rise up singing

There's something about her that either promotes ear blocking or swaying while in a zombie like trance. I'm of the latter persuasion.

Janis Joplin, unconventional, controversial, bluesy, emotional, heart-wrenchingly troubled Janis. Often criticised for not being feminine enough, for having a voice that wasn't sweet like honey bees, for not having silky coiffed hair, for not being what a woman 'should' be but that just make me like her all the more. Girls, we are all too willing to sit in the box and happily request the lid goes on tight - then when someone who doesn't fit the image comes along we ridicule her for being too...something (anything, it doesn't even matter what!). Sometimes I despair about us..

Any really great woman has felt the sting of criticism for not being womanly enough. Quite frankly folks, if people are going to be uncomfortable about a certain type of women because she unwillingly (or unwittingly) challenges the notion of femininity then that's a certain type of woman I want to get to know. It means she's dangerous - and that's important in this day and age of the plastic fantastic.

But I digress, Janis. My friend M actually introduced me to Janis' music - when we were both in year 11 and obsessed with The Carpenters (another MM I bet you can't wait! ha). I hadn't heard much about Janis beyond the typical and so M used to do impressions of her in class for me - funny since M was nothing like Janis; blonde, cute, radiating sweetness but also... hilarious, in a physical comedy, complete dag, not afraid to look stupid kind of way. I love people who are surprising.

Not long after that I saw the Woodstock movie and was totally enchanted. That was it for me. God love her.

Probably one of my favourite renditions of one of my all time favourite songs is one done by Janis of Summertime (yes the Gershwin song from Porgy and Bess). I've heard many a version of the song. The Sarah Vaughan version is magnificent, Nina Simone's is thoughtful and the Fantasia Barrino (from American Idol) version is beautiful and there are so many more renditions of it floating around. That's the mark of a good song - when it can be covered beautifully so many times. But the mark of a good artist is one that respects the dynamic of the song while making it their own. For me, Janis Joplin's Summertime is a masterpiece. She put something in there that made it heartbreaking to listen to and somehow both fragile and strong at the same time. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but I think it's glorious.

Summertime - Janis Joplin