Recently Amy Winehouse joined the “27 Club” when she died of a drug overdose. The “27 Club” is a group of rockers that died at age 27. Unfortunately Jimi Hendrix died at age 27 in 1970 and Janis Joplin did the same three weeks later. Today we are going to look at her life and also at the life of two people who were comtempories of hers. Actually John Michael Talbot shared the stage with her at one point.
‘Janis Joplin’ 1/5 from True Hollywood Story
Two and a half weeks after Jimi Hendrix died, on October 4, 1970, the world of rock was stunned to learn that he had been joined in the afterlife by Janis Joplin. Here was the one-two punch that made the curse of 27 achieve mythic proportion. A boisterous, self-destructive Texan who found her singing voice in the church and her inner one in San Francisco, Joplin had the most distinctive and powerful set of pipes anyone had ever heard, introduced first as the chanteuse of Big Brother and the Holding Company and later as a solo artist. She also had a taste for alcohol and narcotics that followed her wherever she went. No matter how many times she managed to get clean, she always relapsed. She died of a heroin overdose while recording an unfinished album released after her death as “Pearl.”
John Michael Talbot 8/99
In the northwest corner of Arkansas, atop one of the picturesque Ozark Mountains, sits The Little Portion Retreat and Training Center, owned and operated by the Brothers and Sisters of Charity community. Here you will find Little Portion’s founder and benefactor, Christian singer/songwriter and monk, John Michael Talbot.
John Michael was born into a musical Methodist household in Oklahoma in 1954. He began playing piano and drums when he was six years old, and later took up the banjo, dobro, and guitar. He left school at 15 and together with his brother Terry, began his musical career as a guitarist for the country folk/rock band Mason Proffit. The group produced five albums during the ’60s and early ’70s, before disbanding just as they were on the brink of stardom.
Talbot became disillusioned with the rock music life. He never did drugs, and after a concert where Mason Proffit shared the stage with Janis Joplin, Talbot looked out over the arena floor, now strewn with empty wine and whiskey bottles and drug paraphernalia. “Suddenly it all seemed empty, sad.”
Following the breakup of the band, John Michael began a spiritual exploration that included Native American religion, Buddhism, and finally the Bible. As members of the ’70s Jesus Movement, John and his brother helped lead the way in the contemporary Christian music scene. By the end of the decade, John had written and recorded several albums, but had withdrawn from the public eye to pursue his increasing interest in St. Francis of Assisi. In 1978 he joined a secular Franciscan order in Indianapolis. He started The Little Portion, a house of prayer, and planned to live as a hermit. But having had a taste of his mellow and reflective new sound, people clamored for more, and so he started his music ministry.
In 1982 he and six friends moved to the Ozark Mountains, where Talbot had bought 25 acres while on tour with Mason Proffit. They established The Little Portion Hermitage. There are currently about 37 members of his Brothers and Sisters of Christ community, plus another 500 worldwide. Like Talbot, all the members have taken vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and work to provide help to those in need.
Talbot likes to experiment with his music by combining text, music, and instruments of past and present, thereby spanning the ages. The Dove Award winner has raised millions of dollars, along with public awareness, for Mercy Corps International, a Christian emergency relief agency that helps people worldwide. In 1988 he was awarded Mercy Corps International’s Humanitarian of the Year award.
Talbot, who has also written 13 books, had been nominated for the Dove Award 10 times and won in 1982 for Album of the Year with Light Eternal. His expansive discography lists 39 titles, recorded from 1976 to the present, with the most recent project being The Pathway Series, six instrumental albums designed for quiet contemplation. What makes him so prolific? “If you have something good, you’re not afraid to share it,” he says. And his fans, having bought over 4 million albums, have found something good with his soothing tenor voice and virtuosic guitar playing.
|John’s Testimony on DVD – Click Here|
I was brought up by Christian parents here in Australia, along with two brothers and two sisters. I went to good schools, got excellent grades up until I hit about 15, and generally had a normal, though very strict, upbringing.
Around the age of 14 I started to question everything my parents had taught me – I began to question the strict religious upbringing I’d had, the values I’d learnt, everything. I felt like I was just getting told what to believe about life, that my parents had set a course for me to follow, and that they expected me to blindly walk that course.
I wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things that other kids my age could – listen to rock’n’roll music, watch any TV programs that contained sex or violence, go to unsupervised parties, etc etc.
As soon as I was old enough to legally refuse my parents’ wishes (16 in Australia), I quit school and got a job, and started teaching myself rock’n’roll guitar – my heroes were guitar players like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend and Keith Richards.
Around the same time I began to hang around with other kids of my age from my area who had the same interests, and I began to embrace their lifestyle – smoking pot, drinking, sex and general teenage rebellion.
This was so far removed from the way I’d been brought up, and seemed (initially anyway) like such a great way to live, that I jumped on the bandwagon, and discovered a whole new world that I’d only ever read about, and had thought sounded pretty exciting – sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.
At that time in Australia, the whole drugs sub-culture from the 1960’s was still going strong, tied very tightly to the music that went with it, and kids of my age who were getting into this scene and alternative lifestyles thought we were finding a better and more enlightened way of life than our parents had.
At 17, I quit my job and moved into a big old house with 4 other people, a little older than me, and really threw myself into the alternative lifestyle – the people that I hung out with were into elements of Transcendental Meditation, Zen Buddhism, Indian mysticism, and a big diet of psychedelic drugs.
In that first year I embarked on what I thought was a ‘voyage of self-discovery’ – my friends and I would sit around having what we thought were ‘enlightened’ discussions under the influence of various drugs – in that initial period of drug use I tried pot, hash, hash oil, LSD, magic mushrooms, barbiturates and speed.
While initially my drug use seemed like great fun, and a huge adventure of flashing colours, hallucinations, astral travel and spiritual enlightenment, tripping to music by Hendrix, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Santana, Dylan, Janis Joplin etc, that initial phase of my drug use didn’t last very long.
Pretty soon I began to have some pretty weird things going on inside my head – I would suffer incredible bouts of paranoia, thinking that people were against me. A couple of times I had some pretty heavy LSD trips that I had to be talked down from – I realise now that the effects must have been pretty close to psychosis. I astral traveled a couple of times – floating above my body on my bed, completely detached from the physical world.
The thing was, instead of becoming more enlightened, or leading a better life than I had had, and being set free from what I thought were the petty restrictions set down by my parents and the beliefs I was brought up with, these drugs were doing incredibly destructive things to my mind and my spiritual well-being.
Never having been the kind of person who’s done things by halves, I decided that the solution to my problems must be to use more drugs, until I ‘broke through’ some sort of barrier. There was something completely dark and reckless that had taken hold of me, that urged me to flirt with danger – I was starting to discover some dark things in me.
I had just turned 18, and was starting to move in a heavier scene – friends and I went to score some pot one afternoon, and the guy I was making the buy from said he didn’t have any pot left, and offered me heroin instead. My friends backed away, but I thought ‘What the hell, I’ll try it, once won’t kill me’. Talk about famous last words …
A few months later, I had a motorcycle accident, nearly losing my left leg in the process. I was in hospital for months and months, having operation after operation as the doctors tried to save my leg. All the time they pumped me full of pethidine, morphine and other narcotic painkillers, and I came close to a physical dependency at that point. I remember when I was finally released from the hospital, I was too weak to use my crutches, and my Dad had to carry me to the car to take me home.
My poor parents had been through so much during this time, as they knew I had dabbled in the drug scene, but were not aware to what extent.
They thought that as I had moved home after leaving hospital, I would straighten out, maybe go back to school and finish my education. However, I still had a lot of friends who were doing drugs, and I got back into it, but this time with a vengeance.
The thing was, I had discovered that there was no enlightenment in these drugs, or in all the mystical practices and eastern religious beliefs that all my hip friends were into. Instead, it felt like there was this big black hole in the centre of my being, a vacuum that kept screaming out to be filled.
I started using different kinds of drugs to try and fill up this void – speed, mescaline, barbiturates, nitrous oxide, alcohol, in any concentration and mix.
That hole in the centre of my being was still there, but I was starting to lose sight of any normal perspective I could have used to seek some help out of the mess.
And all this time, at the back of my mind, and at the heart of my desires, I could remember the first time I shot up heroin – that warm wave that just enveloped my entire being, that seemed for a time at least, to put the world where I wanted it – at my feet.
I started hanging out with people that were into it, and my old friends dropped away, as I started moving in rougher circles.
As I began to get to know the drug sub-culture better, and saw up close what it does to people, I discovered that people in the drug scene weren’t all peace, love and understanding, that terrible things happened in life, and a lot of them were done by people to each other.
At the age of 18, my brush with the ‘hippie’ scene was well and truly over, as I saw a complete absence of the promised enlightenment and freedom that the hippie movement claimed to stand for being manifested in real life.
What I had actually bought into was darkness and bondage.
My disillusionment found a perfect vehicle in the punk rock scene which sprung up towards the end of the Seventies.
I joined my first band as a guitar player, called World War 4, playing Sex Pistols, Stranglers, the Damned, and a lot of songs we wrote ourselves. We got a few gigs in Sydney, but spent most of our time doing drugs.
The bass player in that band, his girlfriend and his brother were all heavily into the heroin scene, and I started hanging out with them, doing heroin occasionally at first, but mostly smoking dope and taking acid and mushrooms. But the more I hung out with them, the more heroin we did. Pretty soon I stopped taking any other drugs altogether, because I could never trust what was going to happen in my mind, whereas with heroin you always new how it would feel.
The thing is, the first few times you try heroin, you feel like the king of the world, but after that, the craving for that first huge rush isn’t satisfied as easily, and there begins the slide into addiction.
Each time I used, the high wasn’t as high, and it didn’t last as long, so I needed more. The line between being really stoned, and having an overdose becomes very blurred, very quickly.
And no matter how I justified it and rationalised it to myself, and tried to persuade myself that I wasn’t really addicted, I had entered into a world that leads to overdoses, diseases and an early death.
As well, I was now starting to feel out of place somehow, when I was straight.
I found that using heroin was something you had to hide, that the only people who accepted it were other people who were also heroin users, that my old friends didn’t want to hang out with me any more, because I just didn’t relate to them any more – my emotions weren’t stirred by the same things theirs were, and as they heard about what I was doing, initially they’d try to help, but they soon figured out that I didn’t want help, or friendship, or love, because all those desires had been replaced by the need to be so stoned on heroin that absolutely nothing could touch me.
I was also starting to drop the pretence of being a ‘casual’ heroin user – I even found a perverse ‘cool’ in being a junkie. I was starting to associate with people who have that desperate edge to them, people whose drug addiction was the be-all and end-all of their lives. Now, also, the line between right and wrong began to blur as my need for heroin escalated.
Initially I had things under control, holding down jobs occasionally, but more and more heroin became the focus of my life – I started resorting to dishonesty to pay for it, then outright theft – from my parents, friends, everyone I knew.
By 1979 I was in big trouble – I’d been kicked out of home, my girlfriend had nearly died from all the heroin we’d been taking, and I weighed about 7 stone. As my habit got worse and worse, my dealer set me up selling for him, and I made enough money to support my habit for a while, but pretty quickly it was all just going straight in my arm. After losing everything I owned, I straightened out for the first time – taking barbiturates to numb the horrific withdrawal pains. My parents allowed me to move back into their home, and I found a job.
Things went OK for a while, but I discovered that once you’ve had heroin everything else seems pale and grey in comparison, and that desire never let me go. Pretty soon I was hanging out with my old friends again, using heroin as often as I could get it, and wandering aimlessly through life.
I used heroin, cocaine and amphetamines, in that order of preference, whenever I could, with a few short breaks now and then, for the next 6 years. I travelled all over Australia, playing in bands, chasing sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. In that time I also graduated to speedballs – heroin and cocaine mixed together, because heroin by itself wasn’t enough for me anymore.
I got married in 1984, and my wife and I moved to the States for a year, living in Los Angeles and scoring ‘Mexican brown’ heroin and street cocaine in Hollywood.
It was in America that my wife fell pregnant, right in the middle of one of the worst drug binges of my life.
In that year alone, I had already spent close to $100,000 on heroin and cocaine.
My mother flew my pregnant wife home, as I had spent every single cent we possessed feeding my habit, and I stayed on with my brother in Las Vegas, came down and dried out, and flew home just in time for my baby girl’s birth.
That was the only time in my life where I stayed off serious drugs for any length of time – even though my wife and I divorced a year later, I kept straight, kept my job, and just occasionally I’d have a line of coke, though I did some serious drinking in that time.
Things improved (or I thought they did) – I had a succession of jobs, played in a succession of bands, had a couple of girlfriends that really cared about me, but the demons that I thought had been laid to rest were still there inside me, content to lie dormant for a while.
I had dealt with the symptoms of my problem, but not the real disease deep inside of me.
Then in 1994, after 8 years of never even considering touching heroin, I woke up one morning, and I had a craving for a speedball of heroin and cocaine. This desire, which I had thought was dead, awoke in me like it had never been away.
One day I was fine, the next I craved heroin – craved it to the point of not being able to think about anything else.
I lasted two weeks, and then I was into it again, like I’d never been away. I headed straight for Sydney’s red light Kings Cross district, and within a couple of hours I was back to being a junkie. This time I went to desperate lengths to conceal what was going on. My girlfriend left me, though she fought hard to keep me away from the drugs, and for the next three months I got stuck into it.
After overdosing twice, I realised that I was going to die if I didn’t do something – the second OD I woke up from with a collapsed lung, and I was paralysed down one side for nearly two days.
I managed to stop using again, but now I had a worse fear – the knowledge that I had no control over this thing – that though I could fight it off successfully from time to time, it was always going to be there, and that one day, this thing was going to kill me.
You have to understand that I’ve been through five or six overdoses in my life. Three of these were critical – on one occasion, I was revived by paramedics with Narcane (an anti-opiate) after overdosing – I dropped immediately after a hit, turned blue, my heart stopped, my friends couldn’t find a pulse, and it took the ambulance officers more than 15 minutes to get there – according to all the accepted knowledge about brain damage after oxygen starvation to the brain, I should have brain damage, but through some miracle of God, once the ambulance officers revived me, I recovered completely.
Most of the people I had hung around with who were into heroin are now in one of three situations – dead, in jail, or drug addicts and alcoholics.
I managed to pull out of this tail-spin, but my idea of ‘getting it together’ was to become a pot dealer – I knew so many people that liked smoking pot that I found it easy to make money from it, and by dealing in a drug I no longer used, I felt safe. By the end, I was making up to 4 or $5,000 a week.
I was playing in my own band, I had a gorgeous girlfriend, nice car, didn’t have to work for a living, if I wanted to buy anything I had the money, and for a little while I thought I was really living – outside the law, thumbing my nose at society – a successful sociopath.
I didn’t take drugs, I drank moderately, I had it together.
Then things happened to bring things to a head – my girlfriend split up with me, and that started the ball rolling.
I coped with breaking up with her, but then I began to sense something I’d never experienced before –
I’ll never forget how the process started. I was sitting on the couch having my first cigarette and coffee of the day, watching TV, and suddenly I just burst into tears. And, along with the tears, came a realisation. Someone was speaking to me, right in the place where all the heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol, sex and rock’n’roll had gone – that hole in my being that I could never fill.
It was like someone who knew me intimately taking me back over all the things I had done in my life – a trip through all the dead, empty spaces in my life, where you start off with hopes and dreams, and you wake up 36 years later, and half of your life is gone.
I was remembering things from my past that I had buried for years – things that I didn’t want to look at – but I had no choice -this person was bringing these things up out of my dead heart, exposing them to the light, and asking me to evaluate them and take responsibility for them.
It was a devastating experience – for years, every time a bad memory had popped up, I had pushed it away, pretending not to remember too many of the specifics of the horrible things I had done. Now though, I had no choice – and I had to face the person I had become.
At this point my whole world just imploded – I couldn’t function at all – For three weeks I’d just burst into tears, tears of heartbreak and guilt and self-disgust.
At this point, a friend of mine told me I needed to get my relationship right with God, and that’s when I realised what was going on – that it was God showing me the person I had become.
I began to realise that it was a real, living person speaking to my spirit, and this person wasn’t condemning me, or taunting me with my failures – this person was showing me the results of the choices I’d made in life, and this person was telling me, in my spirit, that it didn’t have to be that way, that there was a way out of the hole I’d dug for myself.
God was telling me that it was time to let Him take over, that He wanted me to put things right with Him. Not only that, he wanted to help me, to heal me.
All I had to do was surrender.
It was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done. I had been a rebel all my life. To have to admit that you have completely made a mess of your life is an extremely humbling thing to have to do.
In the end I did it, because I knew in my heart that there was nowhere else to go – I’ve tried anything and everything else in my life, and nothing filled that emptiness within me.
I’m not going to tell you that it’s all been sweetness and light since I accepted Jesus as my personal savior and redeemer, because it’s a hard and narrow road to obey God, and it’s no fun to take responsibility for the misery you have inflicted on those around you, but at the end of every day I carry in my heart a sure and certain knowledge -
That God cares about every one of us, even though we deserve nothing, and to prove it He sent his only son to be tortured, humiliated and killed by the likes of you and I, and that His death as a substitute for our sin brings us eternal life if we just humble ourselves and ask for it.
I now know in my heart that drugs and alcohol will never be a force in my life again. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs can never be completely successful by themselves, because they don’t deal with the evil that generates these desires.
Only God can do that. That’s what God has done in me, and He is working an ongoing, continuous miracle in every aspect of my life every day.
Note - I wrote this testimony of God’s deliverance and salvation in 1997, a year after giving my life to Jesus.
Here’s an update….
May 22nd 2004
As I sit writing this update to my testimony, I find it hard to comprehend the enormity of the changes the Lord has made in my life. I started Bible College a couple of weeks ago, and if someone had told me 8 years ago that I would be studying at Bible College, preaching in gaols, recording Christian music cd’s and running evangelistic events in parks, I would have sent them off to have their ‘head read’!
What really amazes me is that 8 years ago, when I turned my life over to Jesus, my life was such a mess, and I was so damaged emotionally, physically and spiritually by the life I had led, that I really had no expectations left of life – I felt completely and utterly crushed.
And yet God knew all along that He wasn’t finished with me, and that He had a plan for my life that I had never expected.
Where to start this update? As soon as I became a Christian, in February 1996, I knew there were things in my life that had to go . I knew my rock band had to go – I couldn’t reconcile my faith in God with lyrics glorifying sex, drugs and rebellion. I knew the binge drinking had to go. I knew the drugs had to go. I knew the casual sex had to go. I knew I had to work. I had done nothing but play in bands, drink, party, do drugs etc etc for the previous 3 years of my life, and for most of my adult life before then.
My problem was that even though I had accepted Jesus as my saviour, and I had such an awesome conversion experience, the whole Christian lifestyle as I understood it was completely alien to me. There were many times when I would look back and begin to wish some of those things in my life that I had stopped were still there. Without those crutches of drugs, sex, alcohol and my old lifestyle to support me, my true human frailty was there exposed before me.
There were times when I felt naked and exposed and raw in a way that was completely humiliating to me. It wasn’t until those crutches were stripped away that I realised how emotionally damaged and racked with depresssion I actually was, and how this had been covered up and masked by my dissolute lifestyle.
Thank God that He placed me somewhere I could get help.
Within a week of my conversion, I realised I needed to start going to church. I knew I needed to have fellowship with other Christians, and I knew I needed help. And then I began to have re-curring memories of a church my parents had taken me to as a child, called Calvary Chapel. Calvary Chapel is a pentecostal church of the Foursquare Denomination, and is situated in Georges Hall in Sydney, near Bankstown (to have a look, click here). I remembered that as a child when I was taken there that people would be in that church raising their hands, praising and worshipping God, and I just knew somehow that I needed to be in that environment.
I rang my mother and asked her if the place still existed, and she told me it did, and offered to go there with me the following Sunday. So I went, and what an experience it was! I couldn’t work out why everyone was smiling, for a start, and why people were so friendly towards me. In fact I was so used to negativity being around me that at first I was very mistrustful of their motives!
The worship music was so hearfelt from the lips of all the believers there. When people were asked to come forward for prayer, and were prayed for, many of them fell under the power of the Holy Spirit. The atmosphere in the church just crackled with a sense of the power of God. Within a few minutes of the service starting, the tears began to roll down my face. All the shame, the painful memories of my past, all of it seemed to come to the surface, and the enormity of it all was all just too much for me.
When the preacher spoke, he spoke on Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I felt like every word of what he spoke was just for me. At the end of his message, he invited those in the church who wanted God’s plan for their life to come to fruition to come forward and be prayed for. I hesitantly went to the front as prayed for. More tears!
God began to show me all the things that were wrong within me, how I had opened up my life to demonic oppression and how I needed prayer ministry for those areas. I went to church as often as I could, and received much counselling, deliverance ministry and prayer from the pastoral and counselling staff.
In the meantime, I had no job, no money, and things were looking extremely grim. Since abandoning my band, I had turned over all my talents and gifts as a musician to God, and made the commitment that I would serve Him with my music. However, my change of heart was not paying the rent.
Once again, God showed me his provision – I had aptitude and some skills in computing, but little formal training. My brother offered to give me some part time work, helping him with his fright management software company, and so I moved from Sydney down to the Southern Highlands an hour from Sydney, and worked on the help systems for his software.
Now, I wasn’t a great fan of computers, and never imagined my future in that area. In fact, there were times I was extremely fortunate that my brother continued to put up with my complaining about the type of work I was doing, but I look back now and I see God re-forging me as a person, building character and stripping away the junk I had allowed to build up inside me.
One day my brother brought home a new software package for designing web sites, and said, “I think we should have a web site – why don’t you have a go at using this to put something together for my company?”
When I opened the software and got it working, I discovered an area of computing I actually really enjoyed, and have some aptitude for.
From that small opportunity, God has blessed my attempts to re-train and learn new skills, and I now head a web and multimedia development company that I founded some 6 years ago – SEO Technologies Pty Ltd.
What does being a Christian mean to my life today? Where once I was racked with shame over the way I had lived my life and the things I had done wrong, I now have forgiveness and right standing with God. Where once I was tormented and angry I now have peace, and where once I was a constant victim to depression, I now carry a sense of joy.
God continues to work His miracle in me every day – To sum it all up, once I was lost, but now I’m found!