Musician Cat Power narrates this documentary on Janis Joplin's evolution into a star from letters that Joplin wrote over the years to her friends, family, and collaborators.
Columbia has managed to squeeze an impressive, perhaps excessive, number of compilations out of Janis Joplin's relatively slim body of recordings. With this two-CD set, The Essential Janis Joplin, the label's at it again, though it's a good one to get if you don't want to collect all the Joplin releases, and certainly don't want to get the expensive Joplin boxes, but want more than what fits onto a single disc. Including both solo recordings and highlights of her stint with Big Brother & the Holding Company, it has all the songs fans and critics would consider milestones in her career: "Ball and Chain" (a version recorded live in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival, not the more familiar one from Cheap Thrills), "Piece of My Heart," "Down on Me," "Summertime," "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," "Tell Mama" (the live 1970 performance from the expanded edition of Pearl), "Get It While You Can," "Mercedes Benz," and "Me and Bobby McGee." And there are also good tracks that aren't as overly familiar, like "Coo Coo," "Misery'n," "Maybe," "Work Me, Lord," and "A Woman Left Lonely."
This extraordinary documentary brings to life the paradox of Janis Joplin - both insecure and brazen, with interviews from old band members, unseen audio and video, plus readings from Janis's letters home to her parents. It offers new understanding of a bright, complex woman whose surprising rise and sudden demise changed music forever. Janis Joplin is one of the most revered singers of all time. She thrilled millions of listeners with her powerful, soulful voice and blazed new creative trails before her death in 1971 at the age of 27. The film includes some of her most iconic performances which embodied the musical and cultural revolution of the 1960s.