Last week the Biography Channel premiered Final 24. Using a mix of reenactments, archival footage and interviews, each episode recounts the last day in the life of a celebrity who met an untimely demise. The final 24 hours of legendary songstress Janis Joplin are studied in tonight's show (11 pm/ET). One of the interviewees tapped for the program was Joplin's longtime bandmate Sam Andrew. TVGuide.com spoke with the guitarist about Joplin's legacy, her tragic death and how he remembers the talented vocalist.
TVGuide.com: Why are people still fascinated with Janis Joplin's death?
Sam Andrew: Because she was one of those iconic figures like Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Judy Garland. Ever since the Greeks and probably long before, people have wanted to worship this goddess who died or was sacrificed in some way. It's tied to that.
TVGuide.com: You played with Janis more than any other musician. Do you feel like you knew her better than most?
Andrew: Sure. I don't feel like I did, I know I did, because I drove around with her a lot. We'd drive home from the gigs and that would be the most relaxing time of the evening. We'd talk a lot, and Janis was real professional at a very early age. I remember driving on the Hollywood freeway one night and she said, "I'll sell out. I'll do anything they want me to do to be famous. Just show me where to sign my name on the contract." It was kind of an epiphany. I was very surprised. But from a very early age, she knew where she was going and what she wanted. The rest of us were just hippies stumbling around.
TVGuide.com: It's surprising to hear how much she wanted popular success, considering she's remembered as a performer that challenged the status quo.
Andrew: Well, [Big Brother and the Holding Company] wanted to be part of the counterculture community in San Francisco, but she wanted to be a star. She really wanted to be Cher or Barbra Streisand. We didn't know that when we first started playing together.
TVGuide.com: In the Final 24 episode about Janis, it makes it seem as though she cut all ties with Big Brother in 1968. In fact, you went with her from Big Brother to the Kozmic Blues Band.
Andrew: It's funny. I used to say that she took me along to the Kozmic Blues Band as a memento of her past. In the last year, I've thought about it a lot and I think that maybe the reason she took me along is because I had a work ethic. I was always willing to rehearse or write a song. That was important to her. She sensed that hard work was the main ingredient to success. The other three members of Big Brother, frankly, were not that driven. Although they were probably hipper than us — lazy people are often hipper than people who are driven.
TVGuide.com: The show asserts that Janis' drug problem helped lead to the end of the Kozmic Blues Band. Is that accurate?
Andrew: I think that's accurate. When we were in Big Brother, we were in a family. The bass player didn't do any drugs, so he was like the daddy. We definitely soft-peddled drug use when he was around. When we moved on to the Kozmic Blues Band, it was like "Hey, we're free! We can do drugs all day long" and we did. It caught up with us. She didn't really know how to lead a band and I was too bemused to help her do that. We struggled for maybe nine months in that band and then she fired me. It was like a divorce.
TVGuide.com: After that you got a formal music education at New York's New School for Social Research, and went on to write chamber music and a symphony. Do you associate rock and roll with your youth, or are you just as interested in rock now?
Andrew: Well, Big Brother still plays together and it colors everything I've done since. It's good to have different perspectives on things and that's still a big part of my personality. I'm going to practice on my guitar this afternoon, and do my arpeggios and scales. I still practice my guitar every day. I probably play my guitar more now than I did 10 years ago.
TVGuide.com: You provided musical direction to the stage show Love, Janis, which debuted in 2006. Is it ever strange to you that Janis' legacy still plays such a big part of your life?
Andrew: [Laughs] Yeah, I'm in the Janis Joplin business. I accept that, because she was so talented. She was more talented than most people realize. She could sing better live than she ever sounded on a record. So I'm happy to perform that function. I truly liked her as a human being. She had her faults. She got angry too fast, but so did I, so I understood her in that respect.
TVGuide.com: Do you still get emotional when discussing her?
Andrew: Yeah. It still gets to me. I wish she could've developed her potential. She really had a lot more to give. She just got caught in that 1960s drug thing.
TVGuide.com: What do you think she'd be doing now if she were still alive?
Andrew: It's very hypothetical, but I think she would have done some theater on Broadway. I think she also would have done a jazz album, because two of the songs I admire most that she did were "Little Girl Blue" and "Summertime." She could've done an album of those sorts of songs and really showed a lot of people how special she was.
Check out clips from other Final 24 episodes, with subjects including Sid Vicious, John Belushi and Gianni Versace, in our Online Video Guide.
Go behind the scenes of the Ugly Betty wedding in the Nov. 5 issue of TV Guide. Plus: Sneak a peek at the new season of 24. Try four risk-free issues now!
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