Janis Joplin’s Last TV Performance & Interview: The Dick Cavett Show (1970)

The best celebri­ty inter­view­ers have the abil­i­ty to show us how the stars are not like us at all—not only because of the entourages, wardrobes, and bank accounts, but because of the tal­ent for which we revere them —and also how they’re kind of just like us after all: shar­ing the same inse­cu­ri­ties, fears, doubts, for­get­ful­ness, con­fu­sion, etc. They are, that is to say, real human beings.

Like no oth­er inter­view­er on net­work tele­vi­sion before or since, Dick Cavett could draw all of this out of his guests: both their cre­ativ­i­ty and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. What seemed like sil­ly chit chat was a dis­arm­ing cam­ou­flage for inci­sive ques­tions he let casu­al­ly slip through the ban­ter.

“Cavett’s prime-time show famous­ly fea­tured a who’s who of rock stars that both per­formed and sat for loose, freeform con­ver­sa­tions,” writes Jam­base, “which brought the ethos of the hip­pie gen­er­a­tion to the homes of mil­lions.” Amongst his many rock star guests, he devel­oped a spe­cial bond with Janis Joplin who sat down with him on August 3, 1970 for her appear­ance on his show and what would turn out to be her final tele­vised per­for­mance and inter­view.

Joplin belts out “My Baby” and “Half Moon,” which you can see in her full appear­ance above, with an intro­duc­tion by Cavett. Then after both songs, she walks over the couch to hang out with the host, who greets with her warm­ly with, “Very nice to see you, my lit­tle song­bird.” Cavett poked fun at his guests, but he did­n’t talk down or kiss up. Most every­one who sat down with him found his dry wit and can­dor refresh­ing.

Joplin, who admits she doesn’t like doing inter­views, “seems total­ly at ease dur­ing this con­ver­sa­tion,” Ulti­mate Clas­sic Rock points out, “a wide-rang­ing but infor­mal chat that touch­es on every­thing from her feel­ings regard­ing con­cert riots to whether or not she ever water­skis.” She is poised through­out and throws Cavett off-guard with her dead­pan humor.

They play off each oth­er in a charm­ing exchange that doesn’t go near­ly as deep as her final inter­view with the Vil­lage Voice’s Howard Smith four days before her death that Octo­ber, but which cap­tures Joplin’s thought­ful, easy­go­ing per­son­al­i­ty beau­ti­ful­ly. Cavett lat­er cred­it­ed Joplin for send­ing so many oth­er major rock stars his way after her first appear­ance on his show in 1968.

“She had done oth­er tele­vi­sion she didn’t like very much,” he remem­bered in 2016 on PBS’s Amer­i­can Mas­ters. “She told peo­ple, ‘it’s okay to do his show, he’s not a drea­ry fig­ure.’” Nei­ther, despite her trag­ic sto­ry, was Janis Joplin. “At once inse­cure yet full of con­vic­tion, opin­ion­at­ed yet con­cerned about offend­ing, fierce yet ten­der­heart­ed,” writes Maria Popo­va at Brain Pick­ings; she was, as mil­lions of Cavett’s view­ers were delight­ed to dis­cov­er, a “com­plex per­son brim­ming with the sort of inner con­tra­dic­tions that make us human.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Janis Joplin’s Break­through Per­for­mance at the Mon­terey Pop Fes­ti­val: “One of the Great Con­cert Per­for­mances of all Time” (1967)

Watch Janis Joplin’s Final Inter­view Reborn as an Ani­mat­ed Car­toon

George Har­ri­son in the Spot­light: The Dick Cavett Show (1971)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (5) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (5)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Fred Holt says:

    I loved the episode when Raquel Welch appeared in the dick cavett show along with Janus Joplin. Talk about oppo­sites and total­ly con­trast­ing types of women. Janis and Raquel we’re very sweet and respect­ful to each oth­er and they seemed like they were sin­cere­ly lik­ing each oth­er. They relat­ed to to each oth­er like they were old girl friends get­ting back togeth­er again after a long absence. They both lis­tened to each oth­er and com­ment­ed nice­ly about what the oth­er one had to say. Very sweet inter­ac­tion.

  • Sandra Campos Caldwell says:

    1970, ALMOST three wait­ing on 007 to be born, and wish­ing I was old­er. Great music in a sweet south­ern blues rock, JJ, made it so fem­i­nist can have it all, bare foot and prego and be a rock star. It seemed the norm life she want­ed to be a suc­cess in. She was a great loss but her mem­o­ry for even a 3 yrs old- and now even younger ‑50 will nev­er for­get her.

  • Kendra Pope. says:

    I’m a 57 yr old white woman. I lis­tened to her per­form, react, respond and sing at Wood­stock and the Mon­ter­rey fes­ti­val. She’s a real beau­ty! I’m from Hous­ton, Texas and she was from Port Arthur Texas. My most favorite song she used to sing was Mer­cedes Benz.
    I L❤️VE you Janis! I miss you too!

  • Tina Abbott says:

    Janis Joplin was a Nation­al icon who sang The Blues like no oth­er Woman her voice was vig­o­rat­ing and ener­getic her per­for­mance was so alive on stage this is one per­son I regret not see­ing in con­cert she had so much pow­er in her voice her voice was Raw to the point where it went write to your heart Janis Joplin was one of the Great blues singer in the world she was so alive on stage it gave you the feel­ing of being elec­tri­fied I must say Janis Joplin was a clas­sic singer that gave her heart and soul 2 the hip­pie gen­er­a­tion her voice was dis­tinc­tive and had such a sound of her own she will always be remem­bered first singing the blues she will go down in his­to­ry and nev­er for­got­ten play Janis Joplin rest in peace and always be in Rock and Roll Heav­en singing the blues God bless your tal­ent

  • R. BURTON says:

    Please learn to punc­tu­ate and cap­i­tal­ize! GEEZ!!!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.