Based on new access to Janis Joplin's family, friends, bandmates, archives, and long-lost interviews, this biography establishes the Queen of Rock & Roll as the rule-breaking musical trailblazer and complicated, gender-bending rebel she was.
George-Warren's deep research, eye for detail, illuminating contextualization, and clarity of delivery all make for a far more rounded and convincing image of Joplin's precocity in the heady decades of post-World War II America ... George-Warren traces this rise meticulously, citing contemporaneous interviews as well as fresh sources in order to paint Joplin's ascendance far more fully than has ever been accomplished before. And her riotous anecdotes splash color on the canvas ... [George-Warren's] knack for capturing conflicted subjects is uncanny; in Janis, she digs into Joplin's layered emotions, fluid sexuality, unshakably low self-esteem, and unquenchable urge to transcend her racist, restricted Port Arthur upbringing ... In encapsulating Joplin's dual nature so concisely, George-Warren delivers the definitive portrait of one of pop culture's most misunderstood martyrs. Joplin was both a product and an architect of her times; in dwelling so sympathetically on her tangle of talents, contradictions, and mythology, Janis brings one of rock's most enduring legends down to earth while holding her justly up to the light.
... masterfully researched ... the significance-establishing project Joplin appreciators have been waiting for. Her life story unfolds in almost month-by-month narration, greatly assisted by the access George-Warren had to her diaries and letters ... Despite occasional over-density of detail, we get the full Janis.
A new biography, Janis, by the music writer Holly George-Warren, performs a service by stripping away a lot of the noise around Joplin — cackling and bawdy, she was America’s first female rock star and Haight-Ashbury’s self-destructive pinup girl — and telling her story simply and well, with some of the tone and flavor of a good novel. This is fundamentally an Eisenhower-era misfit story, and there are a lot of those. But Joplin’s story has a special freight of pain in it.