[Review] Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren

Publisher and Publication Date: Simon and Schuster. 2019.
Genre: Narrative nonfiction. Biography.
Pages: 400.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Readers of biographies, especially people who are well-known in Blues music, and the 1960s era.
Rating: Excellent.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Links for further reading about Janis Joplin.

  1. Britannica.
  2. Official website.
  3. Janis Joplin YouTube channel.
  4. An article from 2019 on Janis Joplin from The NY Times.


Janis Lyn Joplin was born in Port Arthur, TX, January 19, 1943.

She is the eldest child in a family of two other siblings, both younger. Laura was born in 1949, Michael was born in 1953.

She grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in a working man’s town of refineries in the Gulf Coastal area of East Texas.

The story backs up to tell brief bios of her parents, and how they came to live in Port Arthur. The story will also share how her parents felt about Janis’s music career, lifestyle; and the public dialogue about her parents which was not always correct.

The book gives a chronological story of her life from childhood to her young adulthood, and all the progressive steps (sometimes side-steps or zigzags) that led to her successful music career.

Janis died of an accidental heroin overdose on October 4, 1970.

My Thoughts:

It has been on my bucket list to read a biography of Janis Joplin. I have another book about her life written by her sister Laura. I hope to read it soon. Love, Janis by Laura Joplin.

I was born in the mid 1960s. I have 4 siblings that were all teenagers in the 1960s and early 1970s. The brother closest in age to me is 10 years older. He was a Janis Joplin fan, maybe he still is. So, I remember very well hearing the music he played, and this included Janis Joplin.

It’s interesting that each of my siblings liked different singers and groups from that era. So, I had an opportunity to hear different types or variations of music but all of them in the rock and blues areas.

I’m late to enjoying the music of Janis, maybe I needed to live life a little before appreciating her.

Reading a biography of Janis Joplin can bog a reader down in the minutia of psychoanalyzing why she did this or that. In addition, what created the emptiness in her heart that she tried so hard to fill?

She had a varied or dimensional type personality and character that displayed differently to people.

This is my opinion: but I believe she is a tough person to state in one sentence who she was. People who really knew her did not have a short answer. However, she had a powerful voice and a strong stage persona and the unique ability to push and pull emotions into her songs. There are many people who can carry a tune. There are many people who can stand up and sing a song to a large group of people. But it is a rarity to hold an audience’s attention to the point of a wow factor!

I love several things about this book:

  1. I love how the father of Janis has his perspective in the book. Several people are interviewed for the story, but to hear the words from her father, and shortly after her death, this is an important feature of the book.
  2. Janis had said negative things in public interviews about her parents and the town she grew up in. At least the parents have a part in telling how they felt, and their financial help and support.
  3. Several times in the book it is expressed Janis wanted attention. She did not care if she got attention from being good or bad. She needed affirmation and approval from her peers. She had strong insecurities. She often made decisions without thinking. She had an addiction to drugs and alcohol. She also deeply loved her family and close friends. She worked hard in the music industry. She wrestled with ending relationships. She was creative and intelligent. She loved reading. She had a boisterous laugh. My reason in expressing all the above is she was human, and humans are complicated beings. She had positive and negative traits. She had hard life experiences. She had hope for success and love. All of this is displayed brilliantly in the book.
  4. I enjoyed reading about the culture and society in the 1960s.
  5. I enjoyed reading about other musicians from the 1960s.
  6. Certain parts of her life are expounded on more than other parts in social media but not in this book. I’m referring to her sexuality. She had sex with men and women. If she wanted to be with that person, she did. One of the women she had a relationship with was asked if Janis considered herself a Lesbian. The woman answered that Janis did not take it seriously. And it is stated in the book she wanted to get married to a man. My point is this book shows the whole of her life, not just her sexuality and music. I love this. She was so many things: a daughter, sister, friend, lover, reader, artist, singer, songwriter, musician, trail blazer, fashionista, and a small-town Texas girl with dreams of more.

I was born and raised in Houston, TX. Port Arthur is considered small (at least back in the day.)

I read Janis in 24 hours.