Which artist sang the song Cheap Thrills

PIECE OF MY HEART is one of the best known and most successful songs by Janis Joplin in collaboration with the band Big Brother & The Holding Company. Outstanding are the psychedelic guitar solos, the special kind of voice treatment, the way of singing and Joplin's biographical references to the sung theme of tragic love.

I. History of origin

The song was originally released by Aretha Franklin's older sister Erma Franklin in 1967 under the same title. The uptown soul ballad was written by Jerry Ragavoy and Bert Berns and published by Shout Records, but remained - not least due to the closure of the label - significantly less successful than the cover of Janis Joplin and Big Brother & The Holding Company. A 1992 re-release in Levi's "Night and Day" commercial brought Erma Franklin's version of late fame. The cover version of Joplin was released on Columbia Records in 1968 on both the albumCheap thrills and released as a single. The subject of the lovesick woman who is so carried away by a man that she would like to give him another “piece of her heart” is taken up by Janis Joplin and interpreted in a new way in the blues-rock or psychedelic-rock style. John Simon worked as a producer, who later worked with Simon & Garfunkel, among others. The vocal part of the cover version is very different from the original version.

The albumCheap thrills should actually be published under the name "Sex, Dope and Cheap Thrills", a phrase used in films in the 1930s as an advertising campaign against marijuana addiction. The cover of the album shows a comic drawing, but an initial idea based on photos of the band in the bed of a hippie apartment should be on it. After the photos were taken, the artists agreed that while the photos looked innocent, they did not reflect the message of the album. Robert Crumb was then hired to draw the cover.

II. Context

Janis Joplin was born in Texas in 1934 and wanted to be a singer at the age of 17. Self-taught by blues singers like Lead Belly, Odetta Holmes and her greatest role model Bessie Smith, she finally made her breakthrough to become the “Queen of white blues rock”. Her extroverted shows and the love of life lived out in them stand in stark contrast to the loneliness, emptiness and alienation that the singer felt. Joplin is the female rock music icon of the 1960s and, alongside Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, one of the most important figures in hippie culture. Because of her excessive drug use and early death, the idol Janis Joplin is counted in "Club 27" (i.e. those rock heroes who died at the age of 27, as well as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones and Kurt Cobain).

The band Big Brother & The Holding Company, with whom Janis Joplin achieved great successes, consisted of the electric guitarists James Gurley and Sam Andrew, Peter Albin on bass and Dave Getz on drums. In 1966, the band's manager, Chet Helms, asked Joplin to join the aspiring musicians. Until their joint appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, she tried to integrate into the band and became the front woman until she came to the view that she could also be successful as a solo artist.

Janis Joplin had few long relationships in her short life and felt lonely all her life. True to her motto “Live fast, love hard, die young” she shook the foundations of the rock scene and shook taboos. Her music, which was a reflection of her current state of health, expresses pride and despair at the same time: With songs like “All Is Loneliness”, “A Woman Left Lonely” or PIECE OF MY HEART, she addresses the futile and restless search for true love. Even in puberty, Joplin wondered if she was desirable, later played the “bad girl” with sexual conquest as a party sport, but rarely showed her soft core and the need to be sincerely loved. Both sexual adventures with women and various lovers could not release her from her despair and conflict, which she tried to numb with drugs. Harassment played a big role in Joplin's youth and her early days in the music business: she was bullied by her peers and later harassed in the folk community. Her engagement to Peter de Blanc was broken off after he cheated on her; she never recovered from these setbacks. In public, Joplin appeared as a sensual woman and stood for free love and sexuality.

III. analysis

The cover version of PIECE OF MY HEART, like the original, is about a woman who, out of passionate love for a man, wants to break off another piece of her heart. Janis Joplin sings about the intensity of female love laments and addresses the excessive expectations of women - in contrast to those of men - as desirable sex objects. She frees herself from a classic role model of women, but maintains it as the interpreter of the song. At first glance, differences between the original and the Joplin version are only marginal. The reference to the genre changes from a typical soul ballad to psychedelic blues rock, so the singer now has to assert herself against a rock band line-up (instead of, as in the original, against an arrangement dominated by a transparent piano part). Also depending on the genre, the number of beats per minute increases by around two to three beats to around 80 bpm. The so-typical background choir of the original is greatly reduced and can only be found in the chorus. An extension of three main guitar solos by Sam Andrew as well as slight text changes, starting with a repetition of “Come on” as a hook line and inserting interjections add the finishing touches to the version by Big Brother & The Holding Company.

The song structure is relatively simple, but corresponds to the genre conventions: two verses, a pre-chorus and a refrain that is repeated several times towards the end. The two stanzas are tonally influenced by a very cleanly played guitar with little reverberation: the music is in the background, Janis Joplin with her interpretation of the text comes to the fore. In the song she shows her extraordinary vocal dexterity. The way of singing in the choruses and stanzas differs significantly from one another, while at the same time there is an increase in the musical and vocal expressivity within the entire song.

The piece begins with a catchy, distorted guitar solo in a low register and with a melodic up and down movement. Joplin begins during the solo with the hook line “Come on, come on, come on, come on”, which appears three times before the choruses in the song in B flat major, and with this increase prepares the quieter verse. The pre-chorus provides the necessary energy for the following chorus: a purely male background choir and a present percussion together with a higher voice than Janis Joplin's verses form a comprehensive, dense sound. Starting at “And each time” the harmony sequence changes from E-A-B-A to C # m-B-D-B. The text “But I'm gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough” suggests that the lyrical self has already forgiven part of its heart, but is now willing to fall back on love despite a possible injury to let in. The increase noticeably built up during the hookline is confirmed with “Take it!” dissolved and returns harmoniously to the tonic range in E major.

With the beginning of the refrain, the previous increase results in a logical sequence, the text is supported by sound. The background choir, which was already used in the original version, sings under the rock arrangement and emphasizes Joplin's statement with “Oh, oh, take it”, “Oh, oh, break it” and “Oh, oh, have a” . The last two lines of the chorus stand out clearly from the other content: “You know you got it” only contains sustained notes from the band. The “Makes you feel good” as a unison passage of the entire band including the choir offers an interesting harmonic and rhythmic change with the cadencing movement from A major to E / G sharp, A / F sharp back to E major.

The second electric guitar solo after the second chorus underpins the increase that the song has as a whole: It is played higher and more virtuoso, but Sam Andrew follows the same melody line as the first time. In the second verse, the guitar is played just as present and supports the noticeable increase in tension in the statement of the lyrics. Repeating “Never” six times accentuates the sung theme and makes it clear that the man addressed never hears the woman when she is crying in his sleep. “When I cry at night” becomes the turning point of the emotion. From an initially wistful mood, which is reproduced with the hook line as a request, Janis Joplin changes in her interpretation at this point to a demanding way of singing and expresses with "Baby, I cry all the time!" budding anger. Before the last chorus, she vocalizes the scream that is typical for her later, uttered in a pressed voice, thus introducing the climax of the song. Musically this is supported by a short improvisation by the singer on the word “Yeah” towards the end of the chorus. The meaning of the text “Take another little piece of my heart” changes from an initial love lament to a desperate, almost defiant appeal and indicates a deeper injury to the lyrical self.

The cover of the albumCheap thrills represents a comic in which a picture was drawn for every song on the record. The corresponding illustration for PIECE OF MY HEART shows a stylized heart with wide-open eyes lying on a plate, which is threatened by a man with a fork and knife. In retrospect, the association with Janis Joplin, the outwardly strong singer, whose life away from the stage was marked by injuries, turmoil and loneliness, seems obvious.

IV. Reception

The albumCheap thrills was the most successful album of 1968, stayed at number one on the Billboard charts for eight weeks and reached gold status within three days. The single sold 500,000 copies and climbed to # 12 on the US pop charts. The song was her best known and most commercially successful song until Joplin's death in 1970, which was posthumously replaced by “Me and Bobby McGee”.

After the separation from Big Brother & The Holding Company at the end of 1968, Janis Joplin and her new band, to which she was followed by bassist Peter Albin, were showered with negative criticism. Above all, she was accused of wanting to meet the audience's expectations too much, at the expense of her own authenticity.

In 2004 Janis Joplin and Big Brother & The Holding Company were recognized at number 353 on the Rolling Stone List of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll . Over the decades, PIECE OF MY HEART has been covered by a wide variety of musicians across all genres and brought into the US Top 100 by several artists.




Vocals: Janis Joplin
Lead guitar: Sam Andrew
Rhythm guitar: James Gurley
Bass: Peter Albin
Drums: Dave Getz
Music and text: Jerry Ragovoy, Bert Berns
Producer: John Simon
Arrangement: Sam Andrew
Label: Columbia
Release: 1968
Length: 4:14 min (album), 2:43 min (single)


  • Erna Franklin. “Piece of My Heart / Baby What You Want Me to Do”, 1967, Shout Records, S-221, USA (7 ”/ single).
  • Big Brother & The Holding Company. “Piece of My Heart”. On:Cheap thrills, 1968, Columbia, KCS 9700, USA (LP / album).
  • Big Brother & The Holding Company ft. Janis Joplin. “Piece of My Heart / Turtle Blues”, 1968, Columbia, 4-44626, USA (7 ”/ single).
  • Janis Joplin. “Piece of My Heart”, On:Joplin in Concert, 1972, Columbia, CBS 67241, UK (LP / album).
  • Janis Joplin. “Piece of My Heart / Kozmic Blues”, 1972, Columbia, S CBS 3960, UK (7 ”/ single).
  • Janis Joplin. “Piece of My Heart”. On:Janis Joplin, 1972, Sony, SOPH 39 ~ 40 (2xLP / compilation).


  • Sammy Hagar. “Piece of My Heart / Sweet Hitchhiker”, 1981, Geffen Records, GEF50059, USA (7 ”/ single).
  • Faith Hill. “Piece of My Heart”. On:Peace of My Heart, 1993, Warner Bros., 9362-43694-2, Germany (CD / single).
  • Shaggy ft. Marsha. “Piece of My Heart”. On:Piece of My Heart, 1997, Virgin, VST1647 (12 ”/ single).
  • Melissa Etheridge. “Piece of My Heart”. On:Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled, 2005, Island Records, B00005137-02, USA (CD / album).
  • Beverley Knight. “Piece of My Heart”. On:Voice: The Best of Beverley Knight, 2006, Parlophone, 0946 359343 2 8, Europe (CD / compilation).


  • Echols, Alice:Janis Joplin.Piece of My Heart - the biography. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer 2003.
  • Faulstich, Werner:Rock as a way of life, Tübingen lectures on rock history, part II 1964-1971. Gelsenkirchen: Rockpaed 1985.
  • Gäsche, Daniel:Born to Be Wild - The 68s and the music. Leipzig: Militzke 2008.
  • Joplin, Laura:Janis Joplin, A Wild Short Life - Biography with Unpublished Letters. Munich: Wilhelm Heyne 1995.
  • Larkin, Colin:The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. 5th Concise Edition. London: Omnibus Press 2011.
  • Salewicz, Chris:27: Janis Joplin. London: Quercus 2013.


  • Levi's 501st Directed by Tarsem Singh. Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), London, 1992. URL: http://www.luerzersarchive.com/en/magazine/commercial-detail/levis-501-23691.html [05/14/2018].


Artist homepage. URL: http://www.janisjoplin.com [02/06/2016].

About the author

Anika Janacek studies Popular Music and Media M.A. at the University of Paderborn. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Media and Communication of the University of Passau.
All contributions by Anika Janacek


Anika Janacek: “Piece of My Heart (Janis Joplin)”. In:Song dictionary. Encyclopedia of Songs. Ed. by Michael Fischer, Fernand Hörner and Christofer Jost, http://www.songlexikon.de/songs/pieceofmyheart, 03/2018.