Janis Joplin grew to fame as the singer for Big Brother & The Holding Company, one of the biggest bands of the 1960s San Francisco scene. Joplin was a Texas-born blues singer who moved to the Bay Area in 1963, living in North Beach, and later Haight–Ashbury. In 1964, Joplin and future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen recorded a number of songs, accompanied by Margareta Kaukonen on the typewriter as a percussion instrument. The seven songs they recorded were later released as a bootleg album named, The Typewriter Tape. Around the same time, Joplin began heavier drug use and earned a reputation as a speed freak and heroin user. In May 1965, Joplin returned home to Port Arthur, Texas. She changed her lifestyle—avoiding drugs and alcohol—and went back to school to study sociology. While attending school, Joplin often went to Austin to perform—usually solo—accompanying herself on guitar.
By mid-1966, her strong vocals caused Chet Helms to persuade her to move back to San Francisco and join Big Brother. From that time until her departure in December 1968, the group recorded and toured extensively. Cheap Thrills, the band's second album, contained the single, Piece of My Heart, which reached the number one spot on the Billboard charts only eight weeks after its release. The album sold more than one million copies in the first month. Joplin played her last show with Big Brother & The Holding Company on December 1, 1968, and headed out on a solo career backed by the Kozmic Blues Band.
Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band toured North America and Europe throughout 1969 and appeared at Woodstock in August. By this time in her career, Joplin was fully addicted to heroin, reportedly shooting at least $200 worth per day. Her performance at Woodstock and a later show at Madison Square Garden were near disasters and she was generally so wasted that the audiences wondered if she would make it through the show. The Madison Square Garden show was the last performance Joplin played with the Kozmic Blues Band.
In February 1970, Joplin visited Brazil, where she quit her drug and alcohol use for a time, but by May when she and her newly formed group—the Full Tilt Boogie Band—hit the road, she was using full time again. This tour took the group on the Festival Express Tour through Canada where they played alongside the Grateful Dead, Rick Danko, and The Band. Once the tour had ended, the group went to the recording studio and started work on an album that was posthumously released as Pearl in 1971.
Joplin died on October 4, 1970 of a heroin overdose at the Landmark Motor Hotel in Los Angeles. Janis Joplin left behind a huge legacy in her short career and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2005, she was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. There is a movie about her life scheduled for release in 2012.