PERFORMING ARTS

Janis: Her Life and Music

S. & S. Oct. 2019. 384p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781476793108. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476793122. MUSIC
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This superb biography captures singer Janis Joplin’s complex essence, beginning with her Texas youth and early performing years through often stressful recording sessions, tours, and sold-out concerts. With her distinctive voice and onstage style, Joplin shared her unforgettable rock and blues sound with adoring audiences while privately craving love, approval, and a more traditional life. George-Warren (A Man Called Destruction) draws from scores of interviews, family archives, and additional research sources to examine Joplin’s songs, musical and stylistic influences (Bessie Smith, “Big Mama” Thornton), and interactions with fellow performers. The author also describes Joplin’s personal life sensitively and honestly, from family relationships, fine arts aspirations, and friendships to insecurities, defiance of convention, sexual relationships with men and women, and struggles with addiction. Conservative 1950s Texas, San Francisco’s countercultural Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in the 1960s, and the era’s eclectic music scene are well rendered. Extensive notes complement the text.
VERDICT This poignant and ultimately tragic account of an iconic performer is a must for Joplin fans, but anyone who enjoys a good biography will appreciate this exceptional work.

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