Posts Tagged ‘Janis Joplin’

Garnet Mimms

When I was about eleven, I remember getting the posthumous album, Pearl, from Janis Joplin. This was pre-boombox and Walkman, the era where vinyl still ruled the musical roost and eight-track and cassette tapes were the new pretenders to the throne. My copy of Pearl was on tape cassette and I listened to it incessantly on a little personal tape recorder, the kind someone might have used for dictation. Even with the limits of the technology, Janis’ album was a revelation, especially for a kid living out in the country who spent much of his time alone.

What I didn’t know until yesterday is that a couple of tracks from that album were songs that were originally performed by one artist, an early Soul and R&B artist by the name of Garnet Mimms. I was listening to a quirky local channel that plays a weird mix of old music, a station that I sometimes jokingly call Offbrand Radio because they often play versions of hit songs performed by artists other than the hitmakers. I often find myself scratching my head wondering why a certain song that I’ve heard and enjoyed a thousand times before just doesn’t sound right. Or is suddenly downright awful.

But every so often things go the other way and I am thrilled with what I am hearing.

Such was the case yesterday. The song Cry Baby which Janis immortalized on Pearl with a scorching rendition came on the radio but it was man’s voice. I prepped myself to laugh or yell “Why would you do that?” at the radio. But it was good. Really good.

I Shazammed the song to find out who it was because this channel almost never identifies the singers or bands it plays and found that it was a name I was not aware of– Garnet Mimms. I did a quick search on him and was shocked and a little ashamed that I had never heard of him. Along with Cry Baby, Mimms also did the song My Baby from Pearl. Several other songs were minor hits in the early 60’s and later were covered by the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin and many others.

Listening to many of his songs, I was really pleased with the high level of quality in his performances and in the songs themselves. Great stuff.

Reading his bio, Garnet Mimms, who is 86 now, had a lot of success before retiring from music in the 1980’s and turning to a life of ministering the gospel to incarcerated prisoners. But even with his success and the fact that he is often cited by those familiar with his work as the first Soul singer, the equal of legends like Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson and an influence on singers the likes of Janis Joplin and Otis Redding, his name is not well known. As one pop music critic wrote, Garnet Mimms is “criminally underappreciated.”

As someone who works in a creative field, that is something I can understand and appreciate. Being criminally underappreciated may be the next best thing to being celebrated at the highest levels. There’s evidence for people to find. The work is still there and it is consistent and timelessly strong enough to still turn heads.

Criminally underappreciated.”

I can only hope that someone will someday say that about my work.

So, while I am ashamed that he has been off my radar for so long, it is my great pleasure to play a couple of songs from Garnet Simms here for this Sunday’s morning music. First up is his version of Cry Baby and then A Quiet Place, which is a title that meshed well with my own work.

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Sitting down by my window
Honey, looking out at the rain
Sitting down by my window, looking out at the rain
All around that I felt it
All I can see was the rain 
Something grabbed a hold of me
Feel to me, oh, like a ball and chain
Hey, you know what I mean that’s exactly what it felt like
But that’s way too heavy for you, you can’t hold them all

Big Mama Thornton, Ball and Chain


Sitting here this morning, watching the rain outside the studio window. Got much to do but find myself just watching the rain and the deer shuffling around the yard. It’s gray and misty with an air of sadness. Brings to mind the opening lines of Ball and Chain, a Big Mama Thornton song that Janis Joplin immortalized with her performances of it, most notably one from Monterey Pop in 1967.

Here’s that performance. There’s a part around 3:28 in that shows the late Mama Cass Elliott in the audience, totally transfixed by the performance. I think she knew that she was witnessing something special.

Take a look, give a listen and have yourself a day. You can choose whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. Myself, I’m going to watch the rain a little bit more then get to work.


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Winter Weather mapA lot of us around the country are feeling the effects of winter-like weather this morning.  I know that I am going to go out in a bit and plow the several inches of snow that fell yesterday and overnight.  Not my favorite thing but before that I am going to just take it all in– the gorgeous blanket of white that hugs the contours of the ground and clings to the tree branches and the quiet it produces as it muffles all sound.  These snowfalls are beautiful to see  and hear.

A lot of people don’t share my affection for this weather and crave something a little more warm.  To that end here’s a video with Janis Joplin singing Ball and Chain.  It’s her breakout performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.  If this doesn’t get your blood flowing then I have nothing more to offer.  There’s a great shot about 2/3 through the video of Mama Cass watching the performance, with a look of awe on her face.

Have a great Sunday…

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I see that Janis Joplin died forty years ago on this date, back in 1970.  Her final album, Pearl, was released several months after her death, in early 1971, and was a transcendent album for me when I first heard it as a 12-year old.

It was a great group of songs.  My favorites at the time were the great Kris Krisofferson song  Me and Bobby McGee and Mercedes Benz but soon Cry Baby and Get It While You Can joined them.  These songs were bluesy and raw but with a certain vulnerability that made the power of the music expand.  Just a great album, one that is a testament to its own time and has a continuing life even today, nearly forty years later.

I should be be highlighting a song from this album today but instead in honor of Janis’ death I will play a wonderful version of her take on the classic Summertime.  It’s from 1969, filmed in Stockholm, Sweden.  It just seems right, now that summer is now in the past and the first inklings of autumn are upon us.

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