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Victims Of The Plague

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Early in the morning of Monday. October 5. 1970. Janis Joplin was found dead in an apartment in San Francisco, her arms filled with tracks, killed by an overdose of drugs.

Two weeks before Jimi Hendrix had met a similar fate in London --doctors say Jimi suffocated on his own vomit while nodding from an apparent overdose of alcohol and barbiturates late the night of September 18.

In the 3 short years that we had come to know brother Jimi through his brilliant performances and recordings, he had become a true cultural hero to us. And righteously so, for we are a people, an oppressed people, whose highest goal must necessarily be that of FREEDOM--and Jimi was one of the freest, boldest figures of his time. The bad guitar mangler, the wild mind blower. Jimi didn't take no shit.

And sister Janis wasn't known to take nobody's shit either. Joplin was one of the few of her sex to take the stage as a ROCK AND ROLL musician--and take the stage is exactly what she did, for that sister could take command of a situation, a song, and audience, and make of it what she wanted. Janis left her mark on all of us, and besides her high energy. emotion searing. blues-screeching voice, it was her shameless unfettered way about herself that we can never forget.

But in thinking and talking about these two beautiful people, we have to go past our images of Janis and Jimi and beyond these simple ugly deaths--for our life NOW demands that we move HIGHER than Joplin and Hendrix ever did; we are here now and we must learn from the good times they made and their mistakes and go ahead and build something BETTER than what we shared with them while they were still with us. We have got to check out the lives of these two people and see what really caused them to die the way they did, so horribly, so soon.

Back in 1967 our rhythm and blues bred and rock and roll fed consciousness was suddenly exploded and immensely expanded by the release of "Are You Experienced" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, an album that was to become a pinnacle in our music's recorded history. Yes it was JIMI IS HERE and everyone couldn't help but talk about this bad black man who had learned his licks playing in countless rhythm bands in Amerika and had gone to England to find the jazz drummer named Mitchell and the guitar player who switches to bass just to be in the same band with Jimi.

Hendrix had paid his dues on the bar circuit in the U. S. and had been "discovered" in New York by slick mod English rock mogul (and former Animals bass player) Chas Chandler. Looking back on Chandler's signing of Hendrix, it is now clear that the unknown black/slave musician had only been transformed into the wealthy chattel of the world-wide big money music industry. Hendrix never could have been his own man in the backup bands of soul singers, always scuffling for gigs and money for something to eat and get high on like so many of his race and so many of us, too - but even as things looked bright with the "big break" in his career that Chandler's contract gave him, it was obvious that it was Chandler, and not Hendrix, who would be making all the important decisions in the life of Jimi Hendrix.

Chandler decided that the band that Hendrix had in New York would have to go. The hippest thing for Chandler's new boy would be to go to England, get some new English musicians. and emerge as a new ENGLISH band, and so it was.

It just so happened that Chandler was right about the music business- -that people in the U. S. had been conditioned to accept anything from the British Isles as the big new rave and almost totally ignore as good or better music from their own country. And Hendrix, the black Amerikan from England, turned out to be the perfect moneymaking gimmick.

And it just so happened that Jimi was able to find some very capable musicians in England, and the music they began to make around and with him was truly amazing. Jimi was just too close to his roots at that point to let business conditions stop him from making the music he had to make, and every ounce of that music was truly a lethal dose of the young energy of that man's life and his inspiration to his partners.

On records the Experience was a monstrous beginning for a whole new wave in rock and roll. And on stage the music really was an EXPERIENCE, always so full and so perfect; and at its climax always came the dinosaurian feedbacks and savage smashing and burning of amps and instruments, the final release of the strongest and innermost feelings that the forms of the music could not hold.

But the reality was that Jimi never really could have his own way. As his popularity soared so did the demand for his $$money$$ making$$shows. Before long the Experience found themselves playing the few tunes that have made them famous over and over again at what became the most dreary procession of halls and auditoriums in city after city all over Amerika and Europe. It was the opinion of Chandler and the other promoters and pushers in the music biz that Jimi had to play the songs that the audiences of the impersonal, one-night-stand situations could most easily relate to, and the tight schedules that they ran the group through left little room for argument or originality.

Within a year and a half after Jimi's big break into the scene, an obviously tired and bored Jimi Hendrix Experience was stuck with the task of doing "Purple Haze" and "Foxey Lady" and busting their amps on cue night after night after night after night. Their natural, human, artistic disgust with this situation showed itself in sloppiness and downright laziness in their performances. At their height, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was beginning to fall apart.

But at every city that Jimi played, there was always plenty to help him "forget" the shit he was going- -plenty of "chicks" and plenty of dope. Jimi was the black king of rock and roll and his "comforts" always found their way to him, in what had to have been, many times, the most perverse manners.

It was no secret that Hendrix was one of the biggest all-time dopers of them all --name a drug and he'd sure as not have smoked, snorted, popped. sniffed, or shot more than his share. When Jimi was busted last year for possession of heroin in Toronto, he told the court he had "outgrown dope" and he never even touched the stuff. We all knew he was lying, of course, but that wasn't so bad, was it, just to save his skin?

The decline of the Experience showed itself on record, too. Their last two albums were nice and solid, but they lacked the newness and spine-tingling, good-to-the-last-drop excitement of the first record. Some tunes made the mark, others didn't; what was missing was the absolute perfection of the original, down home Jimi Hendrix Experience.

So it wasn't too long before the group broke up. After two years of bad dope, boredom, and the individualistic Holiday Inn life style of the pop star, there was just nothing left to communicate, nothing left to say, nothing left to do but split and try to form yet another super group.

All this seems so ironic because while it was all happening we still loved Jimi and his music and we continued to buy and listen to his records. But what was going on behind the scenes had to show itself sooner or later, and the indications that Jimi 's whole scene was going downhill began to get stronger and stronger.

The "Band of Gypsies" album, Hendrix's last, is, by and large, smack music. Smack and cocaine, but mostly smack. The escape from the bitter business realities of Jimi's stardom that the killer pig drugs gave him is in every note of "Band of Gypsies."

Compared to Hendrix's first album, even compared to the last two, the music on "Gypsies" is hopelessly dull and -sleep music. Gone from his playing are the masterfully smooth guitar licks (and Jimi HAD thousands) which were the man's trademark. And the shitty backup musicians on the record cannot be offered as an excuse for its existence--it is only further indication that, through pig drugs, Hendrix was losing touch with his situation so much that he couldn't even get the kind of band together that he needed to play with.

Anyway, Jimi's whole scene slipped and slid along on lots of smack and downers and coke until it ended as it had to last Sept. 18--the death consciousness of the pig drugs (as opposed to the LIFE force in marijuana and the psychedelics) finally manifested itself in real, physical death.

Janis Joplin's big popularity came later than Hendrix's did,with her biggest contribution to recorded rock and roll being the second album by Big Brother and the Holding Co., "Cheap Thrills " Their first album was not up to expectations because it was just a paste-together of random old tapes that the band had made, and it was released against Big Brother's wishes by Mainstream Records in Chicago to make some quick buck$. But we heard what the band could really do on "Cheap Thrills"- that record is dynamite.

But the people who run the biz saw that Janis was the center of attraction of Big Brother and the Holding Co., the "star of the show" is the way they put it, and they tried to get her to quit the group to sing with a band of THEIR own choosing, thus creating a "product" that would be more profitable to the big money music businessmen. As long as Janis was a member of Big Brother, all the profits the group made were split between them, but if Joplin were to sing with a "back up band" of salaried musicians, much more of the money would stay in the hands promoters and managers--and of course that's exactly what music means to the music businessman: money.

Janis had been famous from the start for her use of amounts of alcohol, and she didn't try to keep it much of a secret that she used booze to cover up the reality of a band life that was filled with personal hassles with other musicians in Big Brother. Rather than settling the differences she had with the band, she finally turned her playing situation over to big-time manager Al Grossman.

Signing with Grossman was her "big break" to stardom as a solo vocalist, or so it seemed.

Joplin left the band to join the businessmen--but the businessmen were only interested in exploiting her womanhood and her talent for some hot money. Her use of alcohol along with hard drugs was OK with them. For as long as Janis could stand on a stage she was a good investment, and when she was wasted on booze and downers it just made it easier for them to tell her what to do.

So then it was "The Janis Joplin Show" instead of Big Brother and the Holding Co. that was making the rounds--but Janis 's backup band (handpicked by Grossman and his pals) never seemed to be able to get it on like Big Brother could. After some very embarrassing performances Janis and her managers finally managed to put an album together. "Cosmic Blues" was good. Really nice in parts, but the trouble was that it lacked that communal feeling of "Cheap Thrills"--the overall effect was just about the same as the first record on Mainstream that Big Brother made and never wanted to be released for sale.

We can see that Janis fell through the big-time pop star scene the same way that Jimi (and so many others) did--the business exploitation of her life and music had to take its effect directly, and so her band broke up. Her music took a setback, and she continued to slip even further into the escape ozone on bogus drugs like alcohol, smack and downers, until her final massive dose of the shit October 5.

The way that Jimi's and Janis's talents were prostituted and degraded by the big men of the music business is very similar to the conditions which we, the people of the youth colony here in Amerika, are forced to operate under every day. Our energies and talents are misused and exploited by the schools, the government, the military "services", and industry and business. It's not just the rock stars who are turning to death drugs as a way to cope with this horseshit--too many of us have, in our frustration and confusion, turned to the death drugs--drugs like phoney THC (usually a deadly mixture of barbiturates, veterinary tranquilizers, and other shit), smack, downers and speed, in a futile attempt to escape from the ugly reality of our every-day lives.  Jimi and Janis are but two of the more obvious examples.

 Last year, Rolling Stone Brian Jones' death on smack could be covered up by a few lies and a new guitar player.  Now the shit is coming down much too heavy for any of us to ignore it.  The downer O.D. death of Canned Heat's Al "Blind Owl" Wilson just a couple of months ago caused the breakup of one of the best white blues bands to ever reach our ears.  Now Janis and Jimi are gone and music people's list of "who's next?" guesses include and many of the best and most famous people in the business.

In 1971 smack is no longer limited to a few areas like New York, or Los Angeles. The Haight Ashbury in San Francisco is just beginning to get itself together after the huge blight of speed and smack that almost entirely ruined that community two years ago. And this summer the suburbias and the freek strongholds Midwest and South finally got their first big stinging tastes of smack, and the energy level and overall communal sense of those places dropped to an all time low.

THE FACT IS THAT THERE IS A PLAGUE SWEEPING OUR PEOPLE; our new nation is in danger of crumbling before - our eyes just as it is beginning to get off its knees. The bogus downer shit passed off as THC, the smack and barbiturates, and the speed being sold and used in our streets and ballrooms are part of a problem that touches each and every one of us.

In looking for solutions to the pig drug problem we can never forget that the cause for the existence and use of these drugs must be attributed to the pig-death-capitalist-control system which is in power today: the entire business/ industry/government/military system which rules this country and attempts to control the lives of every one for its own selfish interests.

We have to recognize that we are an exploited people. Just as black and brown and yellow and red people of this world are exploited peoples. The destruction of the frustrated youth of this country by pig drugs is just as systematic and effective as the napalm on Vietnamese people and the gunning down of black people in the streets.

It's obvious that the government and the schools of this country make no attempt to put out correct or useful information about drugs. As kids we we're taught

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