Janice Joplin and Sylvia Plath

by Rick Bretz

Artists express their tortured or exalted souls in a variety of ways.  They can use music and voice or the written word on paper. Either way, if the message has a medium and receiving audience, the result can move the human spirit. Artists are always looking for an emotional or intellectual response.  Sending sounds to an ear or words to the thought process can accomplish this, sometimes at the expense of the artists’ well-being. They are at once happy doing what they do best but seek more afterwards and find themselves wanting.

Cover of "Pearl"
Cover of Pearl

Janis Joplin and Sylvia Plath

Janis Joplin

Sylvia Plath

Born: January 19, 1943  Port Arthur, Texas Born:    October 27, 1932   Boston, Mass.
Died: October   4, 1970    Hollywood, Ca. Died: February 11, 1963   England
Cause: Accidental Heroin overdose Cause: Suicide by gas oven
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in   1995 First poet to receive Pulitzer Prize   after death in 1982
Known for distinctive voice Known for intense imagery and   alliteration
Lead singer for the group, “Big   Brother and the Holding Company Poetry: The Colossus (1960); Ariel (1965); Crossing the Water   (1971); Winter Trees (1972); The Collected Poems (1981)
Hits include: Piece of my Heart, Mercedes   Benz, Me and Bobby McGee Prose: The Bell Jar (1963) The   Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982) The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia   Plath (2000, edited by Karen V. Kukil)

 

Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I could try to analyze and compare these talented women but the best window into a soul is through their own words.

In the words of Janis Joplin

In the words of Sylvia Plath

“Onstage,   I make love to 25,000 people – then I go home alone.” “If they substituted the word “Lust”   for “Love” in the popular songs it would come nearer the truth.”
“‘I   feel, you know, I hurt, please help.’ I’m saying words, man, and if I look at   an audience and they ain’t understanding me, it’s just like getting kicked in   the teeth.”

 

“Can you understand? Someone,   somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my   despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I   have so much – so very much to learn.”
On performing in concert, “…I dig   it! I dig it so much, man!” “Perhaps   when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously   near to wanting nothing.”

 

“People, whether they know it or not, like   their blues singers miserable. They like their blues singers to die   afterwards.”

 

The silence depressed me. It wasn’t   the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”
“It used to make me very unhappy,   all that feeling. I just didn’t know what to do with it. But now I’ve learned   how to make feeling work for me.” How frail the human heart must be — a mirrored   pool of thought.

 

They were both lonely despite having many people around them.  Janice Joplin tried to find the answer through drugs and alcohol and died of an overdose way before she should have left us. Radio stations play her songs today and her CDs sell well.  Sylvia Plath used her depression to create works that are studied in school and university literature classes to this day.  They both live on through words and music.

3 thoughts on “Janice Joplin and Sylvia Plath”

  1. Love this format better. Interesting that you would use two artists who use words in two different ways. Great comparisons!

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