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Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly…

Janis: Her Life and Music (edition 2019)

by Holly George-Warren (Author)

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This blazingly intimate biography of Janis Joplin establishes the Queen of Rock & Roll as the rule-breaking musical trailblazer and complicated, gender-bending rebel she was. Janis Joplin's first transgressive act was to be a white girl who gained an early sense of the power of the blues, music you could only find on obscure records and in roadhouses along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. But even before that, she stood out in her conservative oil town. She was a tomboy who was also intellectually curious and artistic. By the time she reached high school, she had drawn the scorn of her peers for her embrace of the Beats and her racially progressive views. Her parents doted on her in many ways, but were ultimately put off by her repeated acts of defiance. Janis Joplin has passed into legend as a brash, impassioned soul doomed by the pain that produced one of the most extraordinary voices in rock history. But in these pages, Holly George-Warren provides a revelatory and deeply satisfying portrait of a woman who wasn't all about suffering. Janis was a perfectionist: a passionate, erudite musician who was born with talent but also worked exceptionally hard to develop it. She was a woman who pushed the boundaries of gender and sexuality long before it was socially acceptable. She was a sensitive seeker who wanted to marry and settle down--but couldn't, or wouldn't. She was a Texan who yearned to flee Texas but could never quite get away--even after becoming a countercultural icon in San Francisco. Written by one of the most highly regarded chroniclers of American music history, and based on unprecedented access to Janis Joplin's family, friends, band mates, archives, and long-lost interviews, Janis is a complex, rewarding portrait of a remarkable artist finally getting her due.… (more)
Title:Janis: Her Life and Music
Authors:Holly George-Warren (Author)
Info:Simon & Schuster (2019), 400 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read in 2019

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Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren



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I love Janis Joplin and love being immersed in her story. I can't say I really learned anything in this bio that I hadn't from the several others that I have read. This one leaned heavily on Janis' copious written correspondence with her family; and seemed less focused on her relationships with men, and more on those she had with women. Janis here is presented as frankly bisexual, if not lesbian with a daddy fixation.

I took issue when lyrics were misquoted. The most egregious example was the part in "Piece of My Heart" where Janis sings, "Nowma nowma nowma nowma nowma HEAR me when I cry-y-y-y, and baby I cry all the time!" This was transcribed on paper as "Never, never, never hear me when I cry." I can only think that when another artist wrote or transcribed the song, the word was "Never." If so, tell us what you're quoting. Because you're not quoting Janis. On no planet does "Nowma" mean "Never." (It means, obviously, "Nowma".)

My thoughts on the medical nature of addiction have evolved since I last immersed myself in Janis' life story. With so much attention to the opiate crisis, so many obituaries of young people in my local paper, and a harrowing recent book club meeting covering DOPESICK by Beth Macy accompanied by a gut-wrenching story of the addiction-related death of the son of one of the members of my own book club, I now more than ever consider addiction to be a brain-altering medical condition.

And this makes me ponder in a new light the narrative of Janis Joplin. How would it be different if she had lived? Luck played a huge part in who among her cohort lived and who died in the 60s. What if she had lived, cleaned up, moved on; would we still dwell so much on the "tortured soul" angle of her early years?

She indisputably had a lot of difficulties in her background. She tried to kick heroin multiple times, sometimes seeming to come oh-so-close, only to relapse - how it always goes. In the past, I would think, "What tortured her soul so much that she had to keep going back to it?" Now I simply think, "She was an addict. The addiction kept her coming back."

What is it about Janis? Right in the introduction, George-Warren nails it: "Janis was a walking live nerve capable of surfacing feelings that most people couldn't or wouldn't." When I'm asked what it is about Janis that so enthralls me, the only phrase I can come up with it "out there," accompanied by expanded arms. "She was so out there." It was all out there. Being "14 with no tits," as she put it. The acne, the high school hall put-downs that didn't seem to end with high school. She puts it all out there in a way I can't or won't. Janis is my live nerve. ( )
  Tytania | Dec 1, 2019 |
Janis: Her Life and Music
by Holly George-Warren
due 10-22-2019
Simon and Schuster

#netgalley #Janis

Chronicling Janis Joplin´s extensive music career, and provocative lifestyle, Holly George-Warren´s extensive research and innate ability to connect to the essence of Janis´s iconic personality and flair, has given us a peek into the motivations and the soul of a woman and performer who has meant so much to so many. Janis fascinated me with her vivacious energy and amazing musical voice. Her ability to never give in or give up is a large part of her success.

Unfortunately, the road this curious and rebellious spirit chose to find acceptance, also included alcoholism and a heroin addiction. What gave her energy also stole her soul, and ended her life. Holly George-Warren has done an excellent job of reviving her energy and spirit.

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for sending this e-book ARC for review. ( )
  over.the.edge | Sep 24, 2019 |
Janis: Her life and Music is a very well-researched and readable biography from Holly George-Warren. Whether you know very little about her life or think you know it all already (trust me, you don't, and even after reading this you won't, so don't fool yourself) this is a book well worth reading.

This is likely to be as comprehensive and complete a biography as we will ever get about Joplin. Whether a biography or an autobiography we have to remember that the story, even if no falsehoods are told, are from the perspective of those telling the tale. Not the author so much but those agreeing to be interviewed and share their "true" accounts. Like all "true" accounts, they must be taken with a grain of salt. In the case of an often controversial, always outspoken deceased subject, those telling their side are as much interested in presenting themselves and family members in better light than they may have previously been shown. Truth usually lies some where in between the various accounts. Having made that qualification, George-Warren presents a balanced and fair biography incorporating previous material from Janis' own mouth as well as more recent accounts from family members offering their "true" perspectives on events of the past.

I remember listening to her when she was first coming up and was taken with the very different sound, to my young ears, that Big Brother and the Holding Company had. I have been a lifelong fan of her music. This book does a wonderful job of contextualizing Joplin's life both historically and, for lack of a better word, psychologically. I do not mean that there is a lot of psychobabble here but that when we can understand what motivated her we can then go beyond making puerile judgements lumping every person who took drugs or had sex into the same bin. One doesn't have to condone these actions but to be unable to empathize says far more about the reader than it does about Joplin. This biography goes a long way toward providing some understanding beyond simply being a product of the counter culture.

George-Warren blends telling about Joplin's life and her music very well. While these things are inseparable in most musician's lives, many biographies tend to treat them as separate and usually to the detriment of one of them. Here, the interplay between what is happening in her private life and what she does musically is illustrated very well, along with placing that whole thing in the historical moment as well. Unfortunately for Joplin, the music side of the coin also included many people who were more than willing to take advantage of her and her talent. But the private side included some family that was equally self-centered, even well after her death.

I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in Joplin, late 60s culture, or music in general. Also for anyone who simply enjoys reading well-written biographies.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
1 vote pomo58 | Jul 13, 2019 |
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