Big Brother & the Holding Company/Janis Joplin: Piece of My Heart
For better or worse, Peter Albin, James Gurley, Sam Andrew and Dave Getz will be forever associated with Janis Joplin – even though she sang with them for a little less than two years. The band was then, and is still called Big Brother and the Holding Company, and except for James Gurley, the guitarist, who passed in 2009, the original members are still making music and you can keep up with their tour schedule at their website (http://bbhc.com). Granted, they’ve taken breaks from it all off and on and they’ve added and removed additional members from time to time, but Albin, Andrew and Getz are still together. While not one of the musicians, Chet Helms is given credit for forming the band (the official web site calls him “the real Big Brother”); as one of the first SF rock producers/promoters/organizers, he brought them together. He, too passed away a few years back.
I must confess that I probably wouldn’t have kept them in mind all these years if it weren’t for Janis, and – although I knew deep in the recesses of my mind that Big Brother was not the band backing her on Pearl (her best work) – Joplin and the band’s Cheap Thrills includes one of my (many) favorite songs.
Piece of My Heart was first recorded by Erma Franklin in 1967. Erma Franklin (sister of Aretha) sings it with a different feel: it’s the same song but nowhere near as rough as Janis’ vocals and Big Brother’s hard rocking, which seem to try to scratch their way out of the romantic situation the song describes (and you’ll find versions by many others, including Bonnie Tyler, Nazareth, Faith Hill ..) They all sing:
And each time I tell myself that I, well I think I've had enough,
But I'm gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough.
I want you to come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Janis and Big Brother (above)/Erma Franklin (below)