What Mick Jagger is for the Rolling Stones, or Freddie Mercury for Queen, Janis Joplin was for Big Brother & the Holding Company. Joplin’s story still determines the public view of the Band. Her passion for an intense life and her expressive singing made Janis famous. Like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison she is one of the outstanding stars of the Rock music of her time.
To many people, Big Brother and the Holding Company has always meant Janis Joplin. Big Brother, who gave Janis a platform for success by giving her the freedom and the energy to develop her musical style, were considered as amateurish and unprofessional by many reviewers. The critics downgraded Big Brother for a long time and in the Joplin biographies the band was marginalized. Janis Joplin became the singer of Big Brother in 1966, and in that group she found the space to become one of the best white blues singers in the world. Although Big Brother & the Holding Co. were known in the Bay Area of San Francisco a year before Janis Joplin joined them and although they still play today as an active band, there has never been written a real history of Big Brother.
This fame and glory of Janis Joplin overshadowed the band. Big Brother therefore is representative of all the overshadowed bands in music history. This book by Michael Spoerke tells the band’s story, how difficult it is to find an identity separate from that of Janis Joplin’s overshadowing talent. As David Getz, the drummer of the band, says: “The fame of Big Brother is like a Golden Albatross. It hangs around your neck like a curse. But the curse is made of gold.”
Big Brother & the Holding Co. were and are far more than a Janis Joplin backup band. They are, as music photographer Bob Seidemann says, “an organic, natural phenomenon, which grew like a plant from the soil. Janis Joplin became their flower.” The exclusive focus on Janis Joplin distorts the meaning of Big Brother, and, indeed, of the sixties counterculture which was not about single “stars” but about the whole constellation of community. Big Brother were the pioneers of the San Francisco sound and belong to the outstanding representatives of the psychedelic music. Guitarist James Gurley was regarded as “the Father of psychedelic Music.” The music journalist and publisher of the famous Haight Ashbury magazine Mojo Navigator, Greg Shaw, called him a “psychedelic Hero of the sixties.”
Spörke’s biography narrates, from the beginning in 1965, each Big Brother member’s life story. Where they each came from? What are their roots? How they see their time with Janis Joplin? What they experienced after their Janis time? Michael Spörke wrote this biography with the close participation of the musicians themselves.
The Big Brother musicians are still connected through their history and through their music. It is time to bring Sam Andrew, Peter Albin, David Getz and James Gurley out of the shadow of Janis Joplin.
The Book is based on Interviews with the following Persons:
Peter Albin, Bill Andrew, Sam Andrew, Ed Bogas, Todd Bolton, John Byrne Cooke, Peter Coyote, Ed Denson, Joe McDonald, Kathie McDonald, Dave Eskesen, Bob Flurie, Myra Friedman, David Getz, Mic Gillette, Nick Gravenites, Wavy Gravy, Richard Green, Richard Greene, James Gurley, Dan Hicks, Chet Helms, Julius Karpen, Bill Laymon, Lisa Law, Taj Mahal, Barry Melton, Stanley Mouse, Tim Murphy, Muruga, Mark Naftalin, David Nelson, Tary Owen, Cathy Richardson, David Schallock, Bob Seidemann, Greg Shaw, John Simon, Gregg Simpson, David Smith, Mike Somavilla, Jay Thelin, Linda Waldron, Peter Walsh, Baron Wolman
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