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The recent documentary Amy, depicting singer Amy Winehouse's rise and fall at about the same age as Janis Joplin reminds me that all rockers are not the same, especially females. Janis: Little Girl Blue depicts Joplin as much more focused than Amy and much more in control of her own life. Except for in death, where both succumb to substance abuse, even the relatively more stable Amy.
This Janis doc does an effective job showing the arc of her brief life, from a country girl in Texas to the rocker who led the way for women in the industry and eventually the world. Why the eventual failure given her great fame and fortune? It's simple, really: She wanted to be loved, and not always finding that devotion, she could turn to music and drugs for support and fulfillment.
Along the way, the doc gives insight into what makes this blues mama run: In her own words she says ambition is the desire to be loved. She's not a "Cry Baby" about not getting the love she wanted from some of her friends and family; actually family members talk to us and appear to have supported her through it all.
Her straight-laced parents couldn't be expected to wholly embrace the counter-culture queen, who began innocently singing folk tunes in her early teens and ended singing blues that reminded one critic of "desperate mating calls." Professionally she gets plenty of love from the likes of Khris Kristofferson, whose Me & Bobby Magee was her best-selling single ever and band mate David Goetz, who observed that she turned into a caricature of the blues mama that the media had helped to create. Dick Cavett interviews her with an unusual affection different from his usually detached persona. At one point he can't remember if they were intimatea nice touch of amnesia that doesn't belie a bit his attachment to her.
Janis: Little Girl Blue informs about Joplin's career from folk to hard blues, gives insight into the driving emotions of her ambition, and amply shows her singing talents that made her a child of Aretha Franklin and her own person.
A greatly satisfying bio of a great singer.
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