Amy Berg’s documentary about Janis Joplin, Janis: Little Girl Blue, doesn’t tell us whether the ‘60s R&B rocker was a serious student of astrology. But twice in the film Joplin notes she’s a Capricorn. Turns out the girl knew enough about her sun sign to aim high and not take no for an answer. However, her seeming inability to integrate her other psychological needs may have destroyed her. As former lover Country Joe McDonald says, she was in conflict with herself and needed stroking from others her entire life, with a maternal feminine side that was never allowed to grow.
Born January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas, Joplin grew up bullied by her peers, attracting angry men who picked on her. Not a traditional beauty, she even managed to win an “Ugliest Man” contest on her college campus. She loved the blues, though, and by 1963 she was already part of the emerging music scene in San Francisco. Four years later, at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival, her astonishing vocals on “Ball and Chain” led The Mamas & the Papas’ Cass Elliot to mouth her unforgettable, extenuated on-camera “Wowwwwww.”
As Joplin’s sister Laura says, the social acceptance Janis always wanted was now finally hers, with a life that apparently fit her values. Capricorn, ruled by task-master Saturn, is no stranger to hard work, commitment and finding a strategy to reach the top of one’s profession.
Acting as her own CEO, she eventually left her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, to pursue a higher level of fame, although she was criticized by her new band for not knowing how to helm it.
Some of these leadership difficulties stemmed from her strong rebellious streak more comfortable on the periphery rather than in the center. She loved San Francisco where she felt she had the “freedom” to create, a quality also expressed in her often bohemian wardrobe that included granny glasses, feathered boas, beads and bandanas. However, her pleasure in feeling liberated from mainstream rules – her unbridled consumption of drugs and alcohol figures in here – directly conflicted with her Saturnine aspirations that demanded focus and discipline. The face-off between both energies is best described in an anecdote when, after seeing her perform live, one of Joplin’s parents told the other that it was likely neither of them would have much influence over their daughter anymore.
Adding to the disarray in Joplin’s life was her Cancer Moon that wanted, above all else, to be nurtured. Although being onstage was, for her, like making love, more often than not she endured being alone post-concert.
Janis: Little Girl Blue is an effective stepping stone into Joplin’s psyche. She applied herself to reach the top, all the while embracing a liberated, anti-rules lifestyle, while trying to find a way to be both nurtured and nurturer, with heroin and booze a solution to assuage the pain. Her letters back home, with the salutation “Dear Family”– they’re read by Cat Power (Chan Marshall) – are heart-breaking in underscoring the importance of the Lunar familial connections in her life she could neither release nor find elsewhere. One has a similar reaction to the fatal case of bad timing involving her soul mate Dave Niehaus.
Joplin’s biggest hit, “Me & Bobby McGee,” from the posthumously released “Pearl,” contains the lines “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” In real life, Joplin did her best to straddle that fine line.
Astrology Archetype: ☽ ♄ ♅ (Sun, Saturn, Uranus)