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He did. The third time she called about the song, at the end of the summer of 1970, he'd finished it but hadn't had a chance to make a demo recording. At her insistence, he says, he sang a bit of it to her over the phone. She seemed pleased. Six weeks later, she was dead. The song--here's your spooky movie moment--was called "I'm Gonna Rock My Way to Heaven."

Ragavoy says he eventually overcame his resistance to Joplin's voice, because he realized she outgrew her shrieking before her death. He only discovered this, he says, when he was hired as musical director of a 1994 play titled Love, Janis. Based on letters Joplin wrote to her sister Laura, the play opened in Denver but never made it to Broadway. Still, Ragavoy makes money whenever Joplin's Greatest Hits sells and, while it hasn't been flying out of the stores lately, the money from her versions of his songs has dwarfed his royalties from the original recordings. Ragavoy wouldn't confirm or deny the reported $1.1 million payment for the film rights to "Piece of My Heart" because, he says, he signed a confidentiality agreement, but he says the music business has been kind to him.

"Fair enough," I say. "But doesn't it bother you, just a little, that performances of three of your songs are being sold by the House of Blues as Songs of Janis Joplin?"

"No, not really," he says. "I never have and never will pay attention to people in marketing. They are offensive in their own right; they don't have to say 'Songs of Janis Joplin' to be more offensive."

This is probably just another way of saying that capitalism may be the best available choice, but it's still an economic, not an aesthetic, system. Or, to put it yet another way, a chain of nightclubs and the economies of scale it implies is American and rational and dead wrong. Ragavoy says he enjoys his anonymity, but what else can he say? In the 343 pages of Friedman's book on Joplin, I cannot find so much as a mention of him. Ditto Erma Franklin and Howard Tate. The index lists "methadone" and "Methedrine," but no "Mimms, Garnet." If this is the best book on the singer, as some have said, what can we possibly expect from Hollywood?

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Robert Meyerowitz