'Love, Janis" the very revealing and intimate biography about Janis Joplin, written by her younger sister Laura Joplin, was for a time the seminal book on the trail-blazing '60's rocker who electrified audiences with her stunning vocals and flamboyant style.
By the time her life was cut tragically short by a heroin overdose at the age of 27, Joplin had already become a rock 'n' roll legend.
In her sister's telling, and through the eyes of her family and closest friends, we are introduced to Janis Joplin already rebelling against injustice and racism as a young girl. We follow her trajectory from the barrooms of Port Arthur, Texas, to the Beat hangouts of Venice and North Beach, California, where she came into her own in the psychedelic, acid-soaked world of Haight Ashbury, after her extraordinary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, where she forever branded herself the badass Queen of Rock 'n' Roll.
At the pinnacle of her fame, Joplin's life was a whirlwind of public adoration and hard living - Southern Comfort and heroin. In "Love, Janis" Laura Joplin introduces us not only to the public Janice who could drink Jim Morrison under the table, but also to the very private young woman who struggled with addiction and alcoholism while searching for the balance between love and stardom.
Written by one of the most highly regarded chroniclers of American music history, and based on unprecedented access to Janis Joplin's family, friends, bandmates, archives and long-lost interviews, "Janis: Her Life and Music," by Holly George Warren, firmly establishes Joplin as the rule-breaking musical maverick and complicated, gender-bending rebel she was.
Joplin's first transgressive act was as a white girl who gained an early understanding of the blues, once only heard on obscure records and in roadhouses along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. A sensitive, bright, and creative child, by the time she reached high school she had embraced the writings of the Beats and had already formed her racially progressive views. These views along with her bisexuality and outspokenness drew ire from all quarters.
Following a long struggle with substance abuse, Joplin died from a heroin overdose on Oct. 4, 1970, in Hollywood, while recording a new record. Completed by Joplin's producer Paul Rothchild (whom George-Warren writes "was in love with Janis"), "Pearl" (Joplin's alter ego and stage name), was released in 1971 and quickly became a hit. The single "Me and Bobby McGee," written by Kris Kristofferson, a former lover of Joplin's, reached the top of the charts.
Despite her untimely death, Joplin's songs continue to attract new fans and inspire myriad performers. Numerous collections of her songs have been released over the years, and in recognition of her significant accomplishments, Joplin was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and honored with a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards in 2005.
Dubbed the "first lady of rock 'n' roll," Joplin has been the subject of several books and documentaries. This book, "Janis: Her Life and Music" is a little less compelling to those of us who know how the story is going to end, but Holly George-Warren infuses the tale with humanity and understanding to reveal Joplin's multi-faceted personality and extraordinary talent, that makes it a book well worth adding to a library of Rock tomes.
Joplin's reputation as a brash, impassioned and sexually tormented soul, doomed by the pain that produced one of the most extraordinary voices in rock history, is challenged in these pages by George-Warren's insight and scholarly research. Instead, we are reminded that although Joplin only recorded four albums in an impossibly short, four-year career, her legacy as one of rock's most talented and influential vocalists, remains secure all these years after her death.