The late great Janis Joplin was a real force of nature, as seen on her live cut of “Piece of My Heart” in Frankfurt, Germany, on April 12, 1969. Joplin was absolutely untouchable as a vocalist, and the power and passion she injects into the performance are mesmerising to watch.
During the show, Joplin builds off the electric energy in the room and the powerhouse band to really bring the song to the next level. Her studio recording of “Piece of My Heart” with Big Brother and the Holding Company was a US Platinum hit, but her live performance of the track is even better.
Joplin is joined onstage by her first solo backing group, the Kozmic Blues Band, and they are in absolutely smoking form on the night. Sam Andrew shreds it up on guitar like nobody’s business, while Brad Campbell just goes to town on the bass guitar, adding another layer of melody to the song with his rollicking bass line.
Joplin points out a young lady in the audience and brings her onstage after the first chorus, and then fans keep climbing up until the stage is packed from end to end with fans rocking out. If you ever wondered what it was like to be in the thick of the counterculture in 1969, this might be one of the best captures of the energy at the time. The entire concert was shot on video, as you can see in the upload below, which begins with “Raise Your Hand.”
The Frankfurt concert took place 18 months before Joplin’s untimely death on October 4, 1970, at the age of 27. Fans online paid tribute to her below the “Piece of My Heart” performance, adding comments such as “One of the great blues voices of my generation, gone too soon. She had a tough exterior and a soft heart. She was a pioneer in rock ‘n’ roll and in life,” and “Somewhere in heaven, Janis was so happy and proud that people up to this day still appreciated this song! One of a kind!”
“Piece of My Heart” was written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns, and the song was originally recorded in a soul arrangement by American singer Erma Franklin in 1967. Franklin’s version hit number 10 on the Billboard Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart at the time.
The song really picked up momentum the following year when Joplin’s band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, covered it in a hard-hitting blues style. The Big Brother and the Holding Company version peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. This made “Piece of My Heart” Joplin’s biggest chart success during her lifetime, although it would later be eclipsed commercially by her 1971 single “Me and Bobby McGee,” which was the first posthumously released single to hit number one in US chart history.
“Piece of My Heart” has remained a firm favourite with Joplin fans to this day, and it’s currently her second most streamed song on Spotify, with 221 million streams—behind only “Me and Bobby McGee” with 254 million streams.