Going Out With a Bang: Janis Joplin's Hard-Partying Wake

Janis Joplin in Brazil in 1970.
Janis Joplin in Brazil in 1970. / Arquivo Nacional, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

When Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970, she left behind a will that included an offbeat, albeit totally in-character, stipulation: $2500 of her estate should be dedicated to funding a hard-partying wake in her memory.

Joplin's loved ones threw the bash three weeks later, on October 26, 1970. The "wake" was held at the Lion’s Share, a popular rock venue in San Anselmo, California, which had hosted many of Joplin’s gigs as well as acts such as Van Morrison, Country Joe and the Fish, and even Randy Newman (who performed his very first concert at the Lion's Share).

The invitations to the event read: "Drinks are on Pearl"—a reference to Joplin’s nickname—and an estimated 300 guests were in attendance. How did the party go? Probably exactly how you'd expect such a fête to play out.

Many of Joplin's fellow musician friends, including the Grateful Dead, performed in the late rock icon's honor.

"Everybody just got as drunk and as f***ed up as they could," James Gurley, a guitarist for Big Brother and Joplin's former lover, later said of the occasion in Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin. "I think it was fitting to send her off that way. I made a toast: 'Here's to what's-her-name?' There was no talking about her at all." Another partier concurred, saying that, “Everyone got drunk and messed around and nobody mentioned Janis at all.”

A solemn, quiet wake? Not at all. A fitting tribute to Janis Joplin? Absolutely.

This story has been updated for 2020.