New Janis Joplin bio captures singer’s tragic life, happiness she found in Marin

After reading “Janis: Her Life and Music” (Simon & Schuster, $28.99), New York writer Holly George-Warren’s engrossing new biography of Janis Joplin, I’m left to wonder how the self-destructive singer lived as long as she did. Joplin was 27 when she died of an accidental heroin overdose in a Hollywood motel room while recording “Pearl,” released posthumously in 1971. It was her third and most successful album, selling 8 million copies, a quadruple-platinum legacy left by a boundless personality and fervidly passionate singer that Newsweek anointed America’s first female rock star.

In George-Warren’s granular but highly readable and compassionate telling, Joplin lived so hard and so fast, so rebelliously and so recklessly, that, in my estimation, she could have succumbed from any number of calamities and sorrows during her brief but extraordinary time on Earth — previous heroin overdoses, a motorcycle crash in Brazil, abuse of methamphetamines and alcohol, even a broken heart from numerous ill-fated love affairs and her depression over her inability to please her parents, particularly her disapproving mother. When you live on a razor’s edge, as Joplin did, you risk having your lifetime cut short.

There have been numerous other books about Joplin, notably Myra Friedman’s “Buried Alive;” “Love, Janis,” by Joplin’s sister, Laura; and David Dalton’s “Piece of My Heart.” By most reports, though, this is the definitive bio of one of the ’60s most electrifying talents and tragic figures.

Over the past five decades, I’ve been fortunate enough to have interviewed many of Marin’s rock stars and musicians. Regrettably, never Joplin, who died a couple of years before I arrived on the local scene. Over the years, though, I’ve gotten to know members of Big Brother and the Holding Company, the pioneering Haight-Ashbury-era band that gave her a first taste of fame. And I knew the late John Byrne Cooke, the road manager who found Joplin’s lifeless body on that sad October day in 1970 and penned a book about his experiences, “On the Road with Janis Joplin.” I’ve listened raptly as they told me stories about this complex, conflicted and charismatic woman who was truly larger than life, and I’ve read other books about her. But I’ve always wanted to know more, to have someone fill in the blanks. Gratefully, George-Warren’s “Janis” does that and then some.

Time in Texas

Naturally, I was particularly interested in the chapters about Joplin’s

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment


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