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AMERICAN MASTERS: Janis: Little Girl Blue

Airs Friday, Sept. 16, 2016 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Janis Joplin, April 5, 1969.

Credit: Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images

Above: Janis Joplin, April 5, 1969.

One of the most revered and influential rock ’n’ roll singers of all time, Janis Joplin (Jan. 19, 1943 – Oct. 4, 1970) thrilled audiences and blazed new creative trails before her death at age 27. Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg (“Deliver Us From Evil,” “West of Memphis,” “Prophet’s Prey”) examines Joplin’s story in depth, for the first time on film, presenting an intimate portrait of a complicated and driven artist.

Explore More About The Singer

10 Reasons to Love Janis Joplin

“Janis: Little Girl Blue” premiered nationwide Tuesday, May 3 on PBS as part of the 30th anniversary season of THIRTEEN’s AMERICAN MASTERS series. The broadcast features a never-before-seen extended film cut with additional archival performance footage and new interviews with Joplin’s sister Laura Joplin and musicians influenced by Janis: Alecia Moore (a.k.a. Pink), Juliette Lewis, Melissa Etheridge and the film’s narrator, Chan Marshall, who is best known as indie rock star Cat Power. In tribute, she performs “A Woman Left Lonely” from Joplin’s final studio album “Pearl,” released posthumously on Jan. 11, 1971. This year marks the album’s 45th anniversary.

Original interviews with Joplin’s siblings Laura and Michael, friends, lovers and fellow musicians, including Big Brother and the Holding Company bandmates Peter Albin, Sam Andrew and Dave Getz, Bob Weir (Grateful Dead), Country Joe McDonald (Country Joe and the Fish), Kris Kristofferson, Dick Cavett and Clive Davis, give a complete sense of someone haunted by insecurity and a need for acceptance throughout her life, despite her on-stage bravado and uninhibited, sexualized persona.

Exploring her childhood, struggles with addiction, active role in the musical and cultural revolution of the 1960s, surprising rise to stardom and untimely demise, Joplin’s own words tell much of her story through a series of letters she wrote to her parents – many of them made public for the first time – and read by Marshall.

“The only way to tell Janis’ story was through Janis’ voice. Her letters show the vulnerable artist, daughter and lover Janis was in her short but impactful life,” said writer, director and producer Amy Berg.

Other previously unseen material Berg discovered during the seven years she spent working on “Janis: Little Girl Blue” includes new audio and video of Joplin in concert and in the studio (some shot by legendary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker), as well as rare footage from Joplin’s emotional return to her hometown, Port Arthur, Texas, for her 10th high school reunion.

“We were fortunately able to unearth footage of Janis that gives another glimpse into the joy Janis felt when she was playing music and performing,” said Berg.

“I’m thrilled that Janis Joplin is taking her rightful place in the series alongside other music icons of the era like Jimi Hendrix and The Doors,” said Michael Kantor, executive producer of AMERICAN MASTERS. “I hope viewers enjoy Amy’s extended cut, made exclusively for our broadcast.”

AMERICAN MASTERS “Janis: Little Girl Blue” is a production of Disarming Films, Jigsaw Productions and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’s AMERICAN MASTERS in association with Sony Music Entertainment and Union Entertainment Group. Amy Berg is writer, director and producer. Chan Marshall is narrator. Alex Gibney, Jeff Jampol and Katherine LeBlond are producers. Billy McMillin, Garrett Price and Joe Beshenkovsky are editors, with music by Joel Shearer. Francesco Carrozzini, Paula Huidobro and Jenna Rosher are cinematographers. Noah C. Haeussner, Michael Kantor, Susan Lacy, Stacey Offman and Michael Raimondi are executive producers.

Past episodes and clips from AMERICAN MASTERS are available for online viewing. AMERICAN MASTERS is on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and you can follow @PBSAmerMasters on Twitter.

Chan Marshall Talks About Voicing Janis Joplin's Letters

In this film outtake from "Janis: Little Girl Blue," Chan “Cat Power” Marshall, who serves as the film’s narrator and provides the voice for Joplin-penned letters, discusses how she tapped into Joplin’s mindset for the documentary.

AMERICAN MASTERS: Janis: Little Girl Blue: Trailer

Letter Home Reveals Janis’ Greatest Ambition

In this film excerpt from "Janis: Little Girl Blue," Chan Marshall narrates Janis Joplin’s letter home to family shortly after her 27th (and last) birthday. The letter reveals a glimpse into her off-stage struggles, mostly rooted in her reckless lifestyle and strong desire to be loved.

Why Janis Joplin left Big Brother & the Holding Company

In this excerpt from AMERICAN MASTERS "Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue," Janis' letter home reveals a glimpse of the troubles she had with her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, until she finally decided to leave to form her own.

Dick Cavett on Janis Joplin’s Influence

Dick Cavett, a former talk show host and TV personality, talks about his relationship with Janis Joplin and how her frequent appearance helped the show thrive. He also describes the unforgettable effect and depth of Joplin’s unique and captivating performance style.

Janis Joplin's former lover: "She set me free"

David Niehaus had no idea who Janis Joplin was when they first met in Brazil. In this outtake clip, Niehaus remembers his relationship with Janis as a liberating, wild but delicate one, in which he witnessed her most vulnerable and tender moments. Even though the couple ultimately split as her relationship with heroin and alcohol grew, he still remembers Janis at her best.

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