Eleven years ago I watched the documentary "Festival Express"--about a 1970 rock 'n' roll tour that traveled through Canada by train--in a venue which mainly hosted forgettable big budget movies.
During the previews the audience was assaulted with A.D.D.-friendly eye and ear candy, formulaic plot giveaways, and swelling strings tugging telegraphed emotions. My companion looked over at me with a raised eyebrow as if to say, "Really?"
But our hyper-commercialized stupor evaporated when "Festival Express" started. Suddenly we were transported to a time when music promoters were willing to take a bath on a venture with spirit and soul that enriched the lives of tens of thousands of concertgoers.
The movie mixed day-in-the life scenes of rock stars mingling on the train with concert
One performance soared above the others. When Janis Joplin appeared onscreen, the movie audience perked up. A couple minutes into the song, we stood and cheered, as if we were right there in Toronto 33 years earlier. The only other time I'd experienced such an audience reaction was at a viewing of the incendiary "Jimi Hendrix Live at Monterey."
Janis would have turned 71 today. As rock 'n' soul fans reflect on this loss, we should also celebrate the heartfelt riches bestowed on each of us by the little lady from Port Arthur, Texas with the larger-than-life voice.
Other "Truth and Beauty" vocalist profiles:
Angelic voices, #2: Marvin Gaye sings "The Star-Spangled Banner"