The original version of "Piece of My Heart" was recorded by Aretha Franklin's older sister Erma in 1967. The song was a top ten R&B hit in the U.S., and also peaked at number sixty-two on the U.S. Pop Singles chart. In the UK, the single was re-released in 1992, due to a successful Levi's jeans commercial ("Cinderella" AKA "Night and Day" directed by Tarsem Singh), when it peaked inside the UK Singles Chart at number nine.
Big Brother and the Holding Company version: 1968
The song became a bigger pop hit when recorded by Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1968, with lead singer Janis Joplin. The song was taken from the group's album Cheap Thrills, recorded in 1968 and released on Columbia Records. This rendition made it to number twelve on the U.S. pop chart. The song's instrumentation was arranged by Sam Andrew, who also performed three distorted, loud guitar solos giving the song a psychedelic touch.
Franklin said in an interview that when she first heard Joplin's version on the radio, she didn't recognize it because of the vocal arrangement. Noted cultural writer Ellen Willis wrote of the difference: "When Franklin sings it, it is a challenge: no matter what you do to me, I will not let you destroy my ability to be human, to love. Joplin seems rather to be saying, surely if I keep taking this, if I keep setting an example of love and forgiveness, surely he has to understand, change, give me back what I have given". In such a way, Joplin used blues conventions not to transcend pain, but "to scream it out of existence".
Country artist Faith Hill included the song on her debut album, Take Me as I Am (1993). It was a number one hit for her in 1994. Hill's version took on a more passive tone coupled with traditional country instrumentation. Prior to recording the track, Hill had never heard Janis Joplin's rendition. Hill's producers refused to allow her to listen to the Joplin version until she had completed her own recording.
Hill re-recorded the track for the soundtrack to the TV series King of the Hill, released in 1998. This edgier version can also be found on the 1998 international pressing of her third album, Faith (re-titled "Love Will Always Win" outside the U.S.) and 2001 international greatest hits album There You'll Be. Her original version was included in her 2007 greatest hits album The Hits.
On her 2005 Affirmation Tour, Beverley performed the song to great critical acclaim and her fans along with Ronnie Wood, who asked her to perform it with him, encouraged her to make a studio recording of the song. The result was that Piece of My Heart became the lead single from her 2006 best-of compilation Voice - The Best of Beverley Knight.
Knight's version became one of her biggest hit singles to date, peaking inside the top ten of the UK radio airplay chart. The physical single was released on 13 March 2006, however, due to a change in the UK chart rules allowing singles to chart purely on downloads a week before their physical release, "Piece of My Heart" became one of the first ever singles to do so, entering the UK chart at number ninety-three on downloads alone before making number sixteen after its physical commercial release. "Piece of My Heart" was also her first single to be released on a DVD format. Knight's version became her longest-running single to date on the UK Singles Chart, spending eleven weeks inside the top seventy-five. It was her thirteenth top forty entry and her seventh top twenty hit on the UK Singles Chart.