Piece of My Heart

September 28th, 2009 § 0 comments


Janis Joplin sings Piece of My Heart

And again, with slightly cleaner sound, in Germany:

What a song. (By the way, read this Wikipedia article about songwriter Bert Berns.) What a singer. What a singer for this song. Piece of My Heart was always my favorite of Janis Joplin’s recordings. She just takes this thing – of course I’m talking about the chorus – through the roof.  And what is it about this chorus, anyway? Well, there’s a build up the the chorus that eventually grows on a dominant chord for a full three bars before breaking into “Come on – take another little piece of my heart”. (Oh yeah – about Bert Berns – he also wrote Twist and Shout, another pop song that sits on the V chord for a week before breaking into a I IV V chorus with great backing vocals…)  The horn stabs on the back beats. The ascending backing vocals that lead up to Janis’ “Take another little piece…” Eventually it stops on the IV chord – “You know you’ve got it…” and then actually quiets down for the verses.

It’s always interesting for me to speculate on whether a song embodies some Platonic ideal – whether a perfectly realized arrangement and performance is implicit in a song. Something about the Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding Company arrangement – just the vibe of the thing – is transcendent.  The singer meets the song and magic happens.

It isn’t even about how it sounds – the above recordings leave a lot to be desired. It’s just that Janis Joplin hops on this thing and takes a ride.

God bless you, Janis.

By the way, here’s audio of the original release of Piece of My Heart, recorded by Erma Franklin in 1967. I’d like to see/hear Erma Franklin doing this one live.

(Again on Bert Berns – the Isley Brothers cut Twist and Shout first (oops, second – The Top Notes were first in 1961) – and yet it’s the Beatles version and John Lennon’s vocal that will forever be the recording.)

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