Those Were The Days

Quite a few years ago my son and I were talking about music and playing a variety of records. At that time, back in Iowa City, most everyone had a turn table and a collection of records. I had a very large accumulation myself—everything from classical and blues to folk and rock.

Janis Joplin was playing, loudly and passionately while we sang just as loud and just as filled with passion. After all, it was the only way to listen to some things. We had just moved into the game of “Oh! Remember when this came out?” when he asked to play Peter Paul and Mary. “Well,” I said, “we can, but I’m really not all that into nostalgia.”

He feigned a look around the room. “I don’t see any shag carpeting…”

Not getting the connection I responded, “What? Nobody does shag carpet anymore. There hasn’t been any for years. New anyway.”

“Huh. And you do know that Janis is nostalgia, right?”

I was shocked. I didn’t know. I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. With some things the old days get carried right along with you to whenever you are.

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Janis Joplin on her Psychedelic Porsche, 1968. Photographed by Jim Marshall

Janis

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Posted by NPR

She died some time this week, 47 years ago. Forty-seven years. I was driving down some street in Iowa City on my way to university when I heard the news on the radio. And there it was. The first thoughts are…No…No…what now?…who will sing those songs for us…who will know?…No…

When I got to the classroom it was silent. No one saying a word. The students in their chairs, the prof standing in front, leaning against the desk. In that silence, in that room on a beautiful day in Iowa City, we were struck. In the confusion of loss and sorrow

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AP—Janis Joplin, Woodstock

it was as if we all knew, all at once, that words could not—should not—be spoken. There was that current underneath, that whirlpool of something else that made words insignificant. There would never be enough, never enough of anything. No one else spoke Soul to Soul. No one else could sing the Blues. She was lost to us, and it was we, we who could not save her.