Janis Joplin – Get It While You Can

A great bluesy song off of Pearl, Janis’s last album. The song peaked at #78 in the Billboard 100 in 1971. “Get It While You Can” was written by the songwriting team of Jerry Ragovoy and Mort Shuman, and originally recorded by the soul singer Howard Tate. The song was the title track to Tate’s debut album, which was produced by Ragovoy. His version made just #134 in the US, and Tate struggled in the business before giving up music in the mid-’70s.

Pearl was Janis’s most polished album. Janis died on October 4, 1970, and the album was released on January 11, 1971. The album would peak at #1.

John Lennon’s birthday was on October 9 and Janis recorded a birthday message for him while completing Pearl. She sang “Happy Trails”…but by the time John received the tape, Joplin had died.

From Songfacts

In 2002, Tate once again teamed up with Ragovoy to record a new album called Rediscovered, on which they included a new version of this song. Speaking with Record Collector about the new version, Tate said, “The words mean much more to me now than they did back then, then they were just the words of a song someone had wrote for me. Now they have all the meaning in the world, I can relate to them. You have to Get It While You Can because you may not get it tomorrow, you may not get another chance.”

The most popular version of this song was recorded by Janis Joplin and the Full Tilt Boogie Band and included as the last track on her 1971 posthumous album Pearl. So if you listen to her primary studio albums in order of release, this is the last song you hear from her.

This song is about not passing up the opportunity for love and comfort, because life’s too mean and short. Isn’t that just about the cornerstone of Joplin’s philosophy? In the book Love, Janis by Janis’ sister Laura Joplin, Full Tilt Boogie Band guitarist John Till shares this moment of Janis’ free-wheeling spirit: “She’d come boogeying up to me and our faces would come right together like that, and then she’d give me a great big kiss. And I wouldn’t remember nothing except big asterisks and f***ing exclamation points over my head… It was an experience, taking a guitar solo in front of forty thousand people and getting this kiss from Janis.”

Also from Love, Janis, a glimpse into her application of the counter-culture philosophy right towards her last year: “In private, she was changing in small but important ways. When someone who latched onto her group was grumbling angrily about the ‘pigs’ abusing their power, Janis cut him short. ‘They’re cops, just people doing their job, honey. Don’t call them pigs, it just makes it worse.’ When she first started touring with Big Brother, if a waitress was rude to them because of their attire and style, they often left without tipping. On the Full Tilt tour, a rude waitress might be left a $100 bill, as a way to change her attitude about hippies.”

From the same book, a quote from Janis offering a take on her life’s work: “My whole purpose is to communicate. What I sing is my own reality. But just the fact that people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, that’s my reality too,’ proves to me that it’s not just mine.”

This song reached its peak position of #78 US in September 1971, nearly a year after Joplin died.

Get It While You Can

In this world, if you read the papers, darling
You know everybody’s fighting ah with each other
You got no one you can count on babe
Not even your own brother
So if someone comes along
He gonna give you some love and affection

I’d say get it while you can, yeah
Honey, get it while you can, yeah
Hey hey, get it while you can
Don’t you turn your back on love, no, no

Don’t you know when you’re loving anybody, baby
You’re taking a gamble on a little sorrow
But then who cares, baby
‘Cause we may not be here tomorrow, no

And if anybody should come along
He gonna give you any love and affection
I’d say get it while you can, yeah
Hey, hey, get it while you can
Hey, hey, get it while you can
Don’t you turn your back on love
No no no, no no no no no

Oh, get it while you can, yeh
Honey get it when you’re gonna wanna need it dear, yeah yeah
Hey hey, get it while you can
Don’t you turn your back on love
No no no, no no no no, get it while you can

I said hold on to somebody when you get a little lonely, dear
Hey hey, hold on to that man’s heart
Hey hey, get it, want it, hold it, need it
Get it, want it, need it, hold it
Get it while you can, yeah
Honey get it while you can, baby, yeah
Hey hey, get it while you can

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

10 thoughts on “Janis Joplin – Get It While You Can”

    1. No one can. I really can see the Bessie Smith influence… While looking up someone from your blog I re-found Bessie Smith…That was an influence of Janis.


      1. These H deaths, along with oxy deaths, are happening a lot here. What happens is they get arrested and go to jail for awhile and dry out. When they get released they use a dose like they were using when they got arrested and it kills them. There is an epidemic!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes…here where I am…they cracked down so hard on oxy that the people can’t get it anymore so they moved to H which is easier to get. It’s terrible

        Liked by 1 person

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