A Birthday Tribute to Janis Joplin

At First Avenue on Jan. 12, Jill Mikelson covers the groundbreaking rock musician for the twelfth year

Jill Mikelson as Janis Joplin

By Tim McG Photo

Janis Joplin would have turned 76 this month. The 27-year-old rock icon died of a heroin overdose in 1970, just as she was busting open the genre for women with one of the most distinctive voices in the history of popular music and a personal philosophy and style that helped shape ’60s counterculture.

On Saturday, January 12, First Avenue recognizes Joplin’s legacy in downtown Minneapolis with a birthday tribute show starring Jill Mikelson. Joplin’s voice was so challenging—for both singers and new listeners—that hearing someone attempt to channel her sound has become reason enough to revisit her catalogue in a live setting. And the hits still stand: “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Cry,” “Ball and Chain.”

Mikelson, hailing from St. Louis Park, has been covering Joplin on the singer’s birthday for 12 years now. When Mikelson played her in Love, Janis at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in 2007, Joplin’s sister Laura commended her performance, and the show won an Ivey Award.

Backed by a 10-piece band, she brings her raw, raspy energy to the stage. “[Joplin’s] version of ‘Summertime’ is probably one of the most difficult songs to sing the way she does it,” Mikelson said in a press release. “It has such complicated vocal dynamics, but she always nailed it. Every time she got onstage, whether at the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock, or her many appearances on television, she had this strength and vulnerability that is rare. She seemed to be always chasing something that she could never find.”

Listen to highlights from Mikelson’s past tribute shows below:

Happy Birthday, Janis: A Tribute to the Life & Music of Janis Joplin
Saturday, January 12
First Avenue
701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis