Happy Birthday Chan Marshall (AKA Cat Power), The Voice Of Janis Joplin In Amy Berg’s “Janis: Little Girl Blue”

January 21, 2016 — One of the most powerful elements in Janis: Little Girl BlueAmy Berg‘s brilliant documentary about the legendary pop/rock/blues singer Janis Joplin, is the use of some of Joplin’s previously unknown letters to her her family.

The surprisingly homey, family-oriented letters are given voice by indie singer Chan Marshall (also know as Cat Power), who “…does an uncanny job of recreating Joplin’s voice in readings from her letters.” (Toronto International Film Festival review).

Berg spoke with Rolling Stone magazine about first hearing Marshall. “I was listening to an interview with Chan and I couldn’t believe how much she sounded like Janis. …It blew me away. I knew the minute I heard her speak that she was the person. Her personality is so sweet and vulnerable, and she understands what Janis was going through. She got it so quickly.”

And Marshall was honored to represent the singer’s voice. “Janis was like an icon of the house that I grew up in,” she stated in a recent interview. “At the time, I don’t think there was any female that was really that free on stage, that loving, that open.  Janis was just all about love. No one was as strong and as powerful as she was with her energy.” Marshall continued, “To be asked to read letters was intimate. …I left the South – I’m the only person in my family to ever leave the South – and I have written letters to my family so I felt these pangs and feelings she had…No one was as strong and as powerful as she was with her energy.”

She discovered that she had a good deal in common with Joplin: “Being southern, hanging out with a bunch of dudes, and feeling she was in an era where she was like the only rock & roll chick. It was like that for me in the Nineties — alone with a guitar, a female touring the world all those years. I saw right away when I was being treated in that way. I can’t imagine the social pressures Janis felt.”

Marshall was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1972. After opening for Liz Phair in 1994, Marshall came to the attention of Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and Tim Foljahn of Two Dollar Guitar. They would record her first two albums together in a single day. Her album Moon Pix was well-received and in 2003 she recorded You Are Free, with guest musicians Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder.

In addition to her 9 studio albums and stage performances, Marshall has collaborated on numerous songs and albums with a collection of artists: for the tribute album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited she sang Je t’aime…moi non plus with Karen Elson; she sang Revelations with Yoko Ono on Ono’s album Yes, I’m a Witch, sang Love Letters with the Dexter Romweber Duo, performed a song for the movie Juno and contributed songs for Ethan Hawke’s movie The Hottest State. She has performed guest vocals and back-up vocals for Faithless and EL-P , for Marianne Faithfull’s cover of Hold On, Hold On, was featured on Ukulele Songs with Eddie Vedder and collaborated with Beck and Danger Mouse on Modern Guilt.

Happy birthday, Chan Marshall.

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