Ball and Chain

Album: Cheap Thrills (1968)

Songfacts®:

  • This was written and originally recorded by a blues singer named Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, who recorded the original version of "Hound Dog." The ball and chain is an image associated with prisoners, as a weighted ball attached to a chain would be shackled to an inmate's leg to keep him from escaping. In this song, Thornton relates the image to her man, who is keeping her down.
  • Joplin's interpretation of this song solidified her reputation as an incredibly soulful performer who can handle the gnarliest of the blues. A staple of her live performances, she sang it at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and also at Woodstock. She recorded the song in 1968 with her band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and after her death in 1971, the song appeared on many of her compilation albums. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • When Joplin performed this song, she would often end it with a free form section singing, "Love is such a pain, love is such a pain," in a kind of rapture. Joplin explained that when she was able to achieve this, she was "transcending" the song - a talent that made her a uniquely gifted singer.
  • The album's cover art was designed by R. Crumb, an underground comic book artist who was popular in the '60s counterculture scene for his self-published Zap Comix and in the '80s for his alternative comics magazine Weirdo.

Comments: 2

  • Brandolakes from UsaJanis is to this day the most incredibly influential talented artist the world has ever seen, heard and felt. Maybe it's true, In order to really sing the blues you had to have experienced internal heart breaking pain. I only wish I would've been 10 years older and had the chance to witness one of her incredible performances. Luv u Janis
  • Michael from Wien (vienna), AustriaAm I really the first to post a comment here? Just this fact is reason enough to write something on one of the greatest performances ever in the history of rol & roll. The first time I saw and heard Janis was in the film on the Montery Pop Festival, and was both shocked an fascinated by the range of emotions she put in his her song. I can only agree with Mama Cass who seems to say just "Wow!" at the end of the video.
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