Queen of rock ‘n‘ roll’s last hours

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By Munyaradzi Vomo

My parents probably remember the magnificent works of Janis Joplin (pictured). Who? Well, that’s what I thought at first, but then I realised, after doing some research, that there are some songs of hers that I heard in my formative years.

Though it’s been a long time since her death, her legacy lives on through with songs like Maybe and Summertime.

Part in memory of her death and part in honour of her great body of work, as well as answering whatever questions fans may have, Discovery World brings you Final 24: Janis Joplin, the documentary that chronicles the 24 hours before the singer died. Like Jimi Hendrix, who had died 16 days earlier, Joplin was 27 when she overdosed, gaining admission to the notorious 27 Club.

Final 24 looks at the events exactly 24 hours before the death of the star. We learn from her brother and band mates what they knew about her lifestyle and their theories regarding her death.

The official word on the cause of her death was a heroine overdose. Apparently, though, she had used the “safe” amount she would always take; it is believed the potency of the batch of heroin she injected on that fateful occasion was stronger than what she was accustomed to. This conclusion was reached after as many as eight other people who used heroin from the same batch died around the same time.

This story will obviously invoke memories of the more recent deaths of superstars through the use of prescription or illegal drugs: Michael Jackson (propofol intoxication), Amy Winehouse (who also died at 27, from alcohol poisoning) and Whitney Houston (heart attack caused in part by her prolonged cocaine abuse). In fact, closer to home, singer Tsakani “TK” Mhinga and the sensational Brenda Fassie also died as a result of substance abuse.

This doccie looks at the psychological process behind the use of drugs. Questions arise: Why would a star like Joplin, in the prime of her career with everything going for her, get hooked on drugs?

Before you judge her, you realise from many autobiographies that some stars (ghost)write, that they are lonely people. They may have millions singing along to their songs, but inside the hotel rooms and mansions they live in, all they have for company are their often-silent servants.

It would be interesting to have some artists, even those who have weaned themselves off the drugs, provide insight on how the drug trade infiltrates the world of celebrity.

We know the small-time dealers sell their stuff on street corners, but that is obviously not the case when it comes to celebrities.

The law should also be represented. We should hear what seasoned detectives have to say about the supply of drugs to top celebrities and if they ever make any arrests.

To those who were never exposed to Joplin’s craft, here is a chance to familiarise yourself with the phenomenal performer’s work. Dubbed the Queen of Rock n’ Roll, Joplin had an incredible ability to get people all riled up and bopping to her music – her bluesy vocals and emotive delivery drawing the audience into her performance.

• Final 24: Janis Joplin airs on Friday at 10.55pm on Discovery World (DStv channel 187).

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