I Need A Man To Love

Album: Cheap Thrills (1968)

Songfacts®:

  • Joplin has the ain't-got-no-man blues in this psychedelic rock tune she co-wrote with Big Brother & The Holding Company's lead guitarist, Sam Andrew. He recalled to Goldmine in 1998: "'I Need A Man To Love' we wrote in about five minutes, backstage on a tuning amplifier. And that was a real sort of 'mission statement' from Janis, lyrically. And for me, it just popped out - it was a real kind of common riff, except for the bridge. We played it in A minor, and then it goes to the bridge, which is in F sharp minor. And there's a lot of chromaticism in there, so for me it was a departure that way."
  • In a 1998 Gadfly interview, Andrew said the intro was based on Albert King's guitar riff from the 1976 blues song "Born Under A Bad Sign."
  • Joplin found it difficult to put her pain on display for an indifferent crowd, especially in her early days. She explained: "I had a couple of shows where I played the whole show really into it, completely giving all I had, man, and I was doing a freeform thing, talking, bring it all out, let it all go, man. Just talked about Janis and all the men that hurt her, and all the men that maybe she let down, and everything that you got to say, man, all of a sudden it starts coming out of your mouth, and you didn't even intend it to, and all of a sudden I heard them speak, I heard them talkin' in the middle of my f--kin' shit, man, and I stopped and I waited to see if they'd quit.

    They didn't quit, and I grabbed the microphone and said, I ain't cryin' my ass off for you man. I put the microphone down and walked off the stage. I blew my contract and all that shit, but f--k that, man, I ain't gonna get out there and cry my soul out for people that are talking about 'How's your brother, did you get laid on Thursday, that's a cute dress.' I'm up there talking about my pain, f--k you, man." (source: International Times, 1972)
  • This was possibly inspired by Joplin's breakup with singer Country Joe McDonald, her live-in boyfriend who left her the year before to marry another woman. McDonald wrote the song "Janis" for her.
  • Joplin found love with both men and women. Aside from McDonald, she was romantically linked to Kris Kristofferson, and Peggy Caserta (author of the 1975 book Going Down With Janis, which she has since disowned), among others. At the time of her death in 1970, she was engaged to novelist Seth Morgan.
  • Big Brother & The Holding Company performed this, along with "Summertime," on the ABC variety show Hollywood Palace - their first and only national TV appearance. It was a bad experience for Janis, who wasn't taken seriously by host Don Adams or the audience.

    "I was crushed," she recalled. "You can't get any love out of that place. I knew it was going to be hard, so I said, 'Just close your eyes… and sing… Don't play any games with them, just try and sing, and then it will work, right?' I got about halfway through the chorus of one song, and I was concentrating with my eyes closed and I felt I was really getting it together, so I opened my eyes and looked at the audience, and they were laughing. All those little old ladies from Kansas were laughing at me. It just destroyed me." (Janis: Her Life In Music by Holly George-Warren)
  • Lisa Battle, who was the band's lead singer from 1997 to 2005, recorded this for their 1999 album, Do What You Love.
  • Kesha, an enthusiastic supporter of equal rights, recorded this as "I Need A Woman To Love" for the 2018 EP Universal Love - Wedding Songs Reimagined. She made a video for the song with footage from a wedding she officiated between two of her female fans (yes, Kesha is an ordained minister).
  • This was used in the 2003 movie The Dreamers, starring Michael Pitt and Eva Green.

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