It’s the anniversary of Janis Joplin’s death as I write this. I don’t much like to dwell on the stories of how people died: their lives were more important than how those lives ended. So this morning I went looking for a great Janis Joplin tune to listen to. That’s when I stumbled on a gif-set of Janis performing in Monterey in 1967, with Mama Cass in the audience. You can see Janis singing, and watch Mama Cass’ reaction, which can pretty much be summed up as “wow!”.
I went hunting for the video and found it on YouTube. Joplin does a stunning version of “Ball And Chain”, and yes, there’s Mama Cass quite obviously blown away, with that kind of awed smile you get when you’re watching something truly amazing happen right before your eyes (and ears, in this case).
Watching it made me cry. I cried because these women were both awesome performers who died too soon. But mostly I cried because there’s such pure joy on both sides of that stage in the video. Watch Joplin’s smile and giddiness when she’s done and the applause and cheering starts… that’s the pure and unadulterated exhilaration of someone who knows they nailed it, that they showed everyone what they can do. And Mama Cass in the audience shows another kind of pure joy: the joy of experiencing something that blows you away.
Sometimes in our lives we are, or can hope to be, Janis Joplin on that stage, bringing out the very best in ourselves, and having the world cheer us on. But sometimes there is just as much joy in showing and sharing our love for something amazing created by others: a song, an album, a painting, a cooked meal, a book, a story, a poem, a knit sweater… you get the idea.
As a writer, I have Mama Cass moments all the time: I read stories and books and poems by other writers and get thrill of “omfg, I can’t believe someone created something this amazing!”. I try to share that thrill, that love, with others on social media and elsewhere because… well, why not? Shared happiness is double happiness, that’s what one Swedish saying says anyway, and I’d agree with that.
Anyway, here’s Joplin’s performance in Monterey. (The gif-set I found is here.)