By Brett Peruzzi, Managing Editor
BOSTON – Less than two months before her death from a heroin overdose at age 27, raspy-voiced rock singer Janis Joplin played her last concert. It took place at Boston’s Harvard Stadium on August 12, 1970. The packed stadium of 40,000 fans had paid $2 each to see Joplin and her newly formed Full Tilt Boogie Band. Her set was delayed due to the theft that afternoon of the band’s sound equipment, so by the time she took the stage after two opening acts the crowd was beyond ready.
Playing only a short set of about thirty minutes, Joplin sang a mix of covers and originals. Notably she did not include some of her biggest hits, like “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Piece of My Heart.” She did dazzle fans with a mostly a capella version of her song “Mercedes Benz,” and a wrenching performance of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.”
A heavy drinker and drug user, the Port Arthur, Texas native cultivated a rebellious persona and had an explosive stage presence, in part patterning herself after her female blues idols Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. In less than a decade, Joplin went from being an unpopular and bullied high school student to one of the most acclaimed and widely known female rock singers of the 1960s. She appeared at Woodstock, perhaps the most iconic rock concert in U.S. history, had a number one Billboard song, and sold millions of albums.
On October 4, Joplin was found dead in her hotel room, just 16 days after the death of guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who also died at age 27 due to a drug overdose. Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones had died at the same age the previous year, and the following year Doors vocalist Jim Morrison would die in Paris, also at age 27. Over the span of two years, the rock world had lost four of its stars, a phenomenon later dubbed the “27 Club” due to the number of famous musicians who hauntingly all died at the same age.
You can listen to Janis Joplin’s final concert here: