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Piece Of My Heart by Big Brother & the Holding Company

Album: Cheap ThrillsReleased: 1968Charted:
  • Janis Joplin sang lead. Big Brother & the Holding Company was one of the groups she sang with before going solo later in 1968. Until her death in 1970, this was her biggest chart success and best-known song (the posthumous "Me And Bobby McGee" went to #1 in 1971). Although she wasn't the first to record it, the song remains most associated with Joplin and continued to get airplay long after her death.

    The song is about a lovelorn woman so enraptured by her man that she's willing to break off yet another piece of her heart if only he will take it. Joplin showed off her extraordinary vocal dexterity on the song, which was right in her wheelhouse in terms of dynamics and subject matter.
  • Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns wrote this song. Aretha Franklin's younger sister Erma sang the original version and put it on the R&B charts in 1967. Big Brother & the Holding Company quickly covered it and took it to #12 on the Hot 100. For Erma Franklin, it was her biggest hit. She went on to sing backup on some of Aretha's songs, and ran a childcare agency called Boysville. Erma died of cancer in 2002 at age 63.
  • Franklin's original version made its UK chart debut in 1992 - 25 years after initial release - thanks to its being used in a Levi's jeans commercial.
  • The song's writer Bert Berns was Van Morrison's producer at the time - Morrison had signed to Berns' record label, Bang. Berns wanted Morrison to record this song for his first solo album in 1967, but Van declined, choosing to record his own songs instead. Berns never got to hear Joplin sing it; he died of a heart attack on December 30, 1967.
  • Janis Joplin sang this at Woodstock in 1969 as part of her encore.
  • This song has been covered in a number of styles over the years, and five different artists have taken it to the US Hot 100. Erma Franklin's original made #62 in 1967, which was followed by the #12 placing for Big Brother & the Holding Company. The rocker Sammy Hagar revived the song in 1982, taking it to #73. In 1997, the Reggae/Rap star Shaggy made it to #97 with his rendition, then in 2005 the song was included in a medley duet by Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone that went to #32.

    When Faith Hill covered it in 1994, her version went to #1 on the Country charts. In the UK, the first version to chart was Shaggy's, which made #7. In 2006, the British Soul singer Beverly Knight recorded it for her 2006 best-of compilation, Voice, and her version peaked at #16 in the UK.
  • When Erma Franklin heard Joplin's cover on the radio, she barely recognized the song. She graciously said in a 1973 interview: "Her version is so different from mine that I really don't resent it too much."
  • The Australian singer Danielle Stearman enjoyed a moment in the spotlight when she sang this with a Country flavor on the talent show Popstars, which was a sensation in Australia at the time. She came in second to Scott Cain that season, but her performance landed her a record deal with Warner Music, but she released just one single: "Tell Me If You Like It" in 2002.
  • Melissa Etheridge sang her version at Woodstock '94 as part of a four-song medley of Joplin tunes.
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Comments: 28

Also recorded by John Hartford on his "Gumtree Canoe" album. Bluegrass style. You won't believe your ears.Dave - Santa Fe, Nm
Let us not forget Norway's finest singer ever [sic], Liv Marit Wedvik, who died in a tragic drowning accident in May 2015, after she recorded and released her rendition on Showtime Records [SR 026 2004], in 2004. I challenge another singer to come close to the perfection that was in this beloved artist. http://www.aftenposten.no/norge/Liv-Marit-Wedvik-er-dod-38646b.htmlJohn - Chico, California
Cuts me to pieces, every time.Et - Orrstralyia
Don't forget that Bonnie Bramlett (Delaney & Bonnie) also covered this song. Her recording is GREAT.Gloria B - Gansevoort, Ny. Usa
On October 29th 1967, "Piece of My Heart' by Erma Franklin entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #100; and on December 10th, 1967 it peaked at #62 {for 1 week} and spent 8 weeks on the Top 100...
And on December 24th, 1967 it reached #10 {for 1 week} on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
R.I.P. Ms. Franklin {1938 - 2002}.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On August 25th 1968, two records by Big Brother & the Holding Company entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; "Down On Me" at #76 and "Piece of My Heart" at #80...
"Piece of My Heart" peaked at #12 {for 1 week} on November 3rd, 1968 and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100; while "Done On Me" reached #43 {for 1 week} on October 6th, 1968 and stayed on the chart for 8 weeks...
The quintet had one other Top 100 record, "Coo Coo", it peaked at #84 in 1968.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
At the time Bert Berns was writing this song, he was dying from heart disease, so when he wrote "break another little piece of my heart" he meant it both figuratively and literally (it basically symbolized his heart slowly dying, since he wanted Jerry to break off a piece of it).Sam Williams - Sherman Oaks, Ca
Janis Joplin is from Port Arthur,TX. She went to Thomas Jefferson High School and briefly Lamar University. Her family lived across the street from my grandparents.(Her brother accidently broke my dad's finger playing football as kids.) My grandma told us that when Janis would come home, her dad would make her wear her hair up and dress conservatively. He didn't approve of her hippie friends and once turned the hose on them when they camped out on his lawn. My grandma said Janis was very shy as a girl.Linc - Beaumont, Tx
Their Album "Cheap Thrills" was No 4 Oct 1968, source Billboard 20 years ago list Oct 8, 1988Donna - College Station, Tx
Definitely Janis' signature single, Melissa Etheridge's cover would have made Joplin proud.Tom - Dozier, Al
the first time i heard this song i knew then that only one singer could do this song justice and that's janis joplin and her aloneLouis Rodriguez - Lancaster, Ca
This song has been running through my head for the past few weeks. I've been mulling over one of my fantasy screenplays, and the song played an important part in it.

This particular movie would be about my friendships as a teen in Atlanta in the 1960s, and I've imagined Piece o' My Heart as the perfect song to end the movie, as the main character walks the streets as an aging baby boomer remembering the late 60's.

It's an incredibly powerful song.
Larry - Atlanta, Ga
Dont know all songs from Janis Joplin, but Piece Of My Heart is a damn good song. Discovered recently i love this song!!!Mark - Montreal, Canada
I give the nod to Janice's version, however I love Sammy Hagar's version, off Standing Hampton, the best.Cliff - Fort Wayne, In
Janis Joplin, the female Jim Morrison.
thats all i have to say
Shannon - Sydney
I don't understand why anyone would want to cover any song that Janis did,the lady was a great singer,she did put a piece of her heart in her music,and you can't top the original.Kevin - Cincinnati, Oh
There have been a lot or remakes of this song but no one can make you feel the song like Janis...she was one chic who sang with all her heart and soul...the best female rocker!!!April - Shelby, Oh
The Scottish band Marmalade have also covered this song, as far as I remember.Geir T. - Umeå, Sweden
Carrie Underwood sang a piece of "Piece Of My Heart" during Season 4 of American Idol, 2005.Rick - San Juan, United States
this song could make the hardest person cry. its so very beautiful.Ali - Islamabad, Pakistan
This is #344 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.Ross - Independence, Mo
Faith Hill took this song to Hell. Janis did the better version, no contest.Aj - Cleveland, Ga
Janis Joplin produces one of the most amazing sounds in this song the world has ever heard.Cody - San Antonio, Tx
Faith Hill also did a remake of this song in 1993.April - Toledo, Oh
Leann Rhimes also did a remake of this song.Irene - Beatrice, Ne
God help us all, Faith Hill also covered this.Deana - Indianapolis, In
Dusty Springfield also recorded this song.Janet - Perth, Australia
Erma Franklin was the oldest sister in the Franklin clanBrian - Denver, Co
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