Janis Joplin: Trendsetter

By Elspeth Sweatman

Soul singer Janis Joplin—the musician at the heart of A Night with Janis Joplin, running through July 16 at The Geary Theater—blazed a trail for female musicians. But here are four other trends that Joplin started that you may not know about.

Janis Joplin. Photo courtesy of Albert B. Grossman Management.
One: Joplin was the first female singer to perform barefoot. Now, almost every female singer seems to do this: Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Florence Welch, and Patti Labelle, to name just a few.

Two: Joplin began the trend of celebrities recruiting famous artists to tattoo them. San Francisco tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle gave Joplin a tattoo on her left wrist in 1970. He has also tattooed Cher and Joan Baez.

Three: Joplin introduced the autoharp (a chorded zither) to popular music. Autoharp was frequently used in blues and country music, but Joplin helped bring it to the attention of rock musicians.

Four: Joplin loved fur. In fact, liquor manufacturer Southern Comfort bought Joplin a lynx fur coat to thank her for bringing so much attention to their product.

Many of these trends were parts of Joplin’s personality from a young age. An article about her in her school newspaper at UT Austin in 1962 began “She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levi’s to class because they’re more comfortable, and carries her autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin.”

A Night with Janis Joplin runs through July 16 at The Geary Theater. Click here to purchase tickets through our website. Want to learn more about Janis Joplin and her legacy? Click here to purchase Words on Plays, A.C.T.’s in-depth performance guide series.

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