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Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin
by Alice Echols
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805053948, Paperback)To call Janis Joplin the Judy Garland of the Woodstock set is in some sense a fair characterization. The brassy, carnal, extravagant, and ultimately pitiable queen of psychedelic rock is indeed a cultural icon. And while Joplin reveled in her own ballsy, boozy legend, its needy, inebriated, real-life equivalent was a shadow that darkened her short life and, in the decades since her 1970 drug-induced death, has come to eclipse the party-girl persona.
To her great credit, author Alice Echols reconciles the two faces of Joplin in this ambitious, thoroughly readable biography. She does so by tracing Joplin from her youth as a natural-born libertine in dreary Port Arthur, Texas, to her emergence as the sole female rock superstar of her era--a period when beneath-the-surface sexism hampered Joplin's progress even while women's liberation was being widely touted. The author does not shy away from sordid sex-and-drugs episodes, and there's plenty of raw material---the singer was promiscuous, bisexual, and, at various times, an alcoholic, a speed freak, and a junkie. Echols, however, elevates this biography above run-of-the-mill rock profiles by painting her subject against an elaborate and ever-changing cultural backdrop. Here is Joplin the aspiring folksinger, the white-picket-fence wannabe, the wayward daughter, the hit-and-miss recording artist, and, finally, the ill-starred spirit with nothing left to lose. --Steven Stolder
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:19 -0400)
Alice Echols pushes beyond the legendary Joplin - the red-hot mama of her own invention - and the equally familiar portrait of the screwed-up star victimized by the era she symbolized. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, Echols reveals how this sweet-voiced girl from Texas re-created herself, first as a gravelly-voiced bluesy folksinger, and then as rock 'n' roll's first female superstar. She examines the roots of Joplin's musicianship and her efforts, both onstage and off, to live on what she called "the outer limits of probability," drinking and carousing like one of the guys, declaring herself the first "white-black" person, and pursuing sex with men and women alike.
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