Longlisted for the 2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence
This blazingly intimate biography of Janis Joplin establishes the Queen of Rock & Roll as the rule-breaking musical trailblazer and complicated, gender-bending rebel she was.
Janis Joplin’s first transgressive act was to be a white girl who gained an early sense of the power of the blues, music you could only find on obscure records and in roadhouses along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. But even before that, she stood out in her conservative oil town. She was a tomboy who was also intellectually curious and artistic. By the time she reached high school, she had drawn the scorn of her peers for her embrace of the Beats and her racially progressive views. Her parents doted on her in many ways, but were ultimately put off by her repeated acts of defiance.
Janis Joplin has passed into legend as a brash, impassioned soul doomed by the pain that produced one of the most extraordinary voices in rock history. But in these pages, Holly George-Warren provides a revelatory and deeply satisfying portrait of a woman who wasn’t all about suffering. Janis was a perfectionist: a passionate, erudite musician who was born with talent but also worked exceptionally hard to develop it. She was a woman who pushed the boundaries of gender and sexuality long before it was socially acceptable. She was a sensitive seeker who wanted to marry and settle down—but couldn’t, or wouldn’t. She was a Texan who yearned to flee Texas but could never quite get away—even after becoming a countercultural icon in San Francisco.
Written by one of the most highly regarded chroniclers of American music history, and based on unprecedented access to Janis Joplin’s family, friends, band mates, archives, and long-lost interviews, Janis is a complex, rewarding portrait of a remarkable artist finally getting her due.
Holly George-Warren is a two-time Grammy nominee and the award-winning author of sixteen books, including the New York Times bestseller The Road to Woodstock (with Michael Lang) and the biographies Janis: Her Life and Music, A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, and Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry. She has written for a variety of publications, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and Entertainment Weekly. George-Warren teaches at the State University of New York in New Paltz.
Why We Love It
“It gives this extraordinary woman the complexity she deserves and traces with passion and erudition her education as an artist.” — Priscilla P., VP, Executive Editor, on Janis
“I’ve been waiting for the right person to write the definitive biography of Janis Joplin! All fans should be grateful it’s finally here. Janis lives and breathes freedom and soul, and Holly George-Warren captures that spirit perfectly.” — Rosanne Cash, four-time Grammy Award winner
“The definitive portrait of one of pop culture’s most misunderstood martyrs… 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.” — NPR.org
“Gripping.” — Vanity Fair
“Revelatory.” — Bustle
“Performs a service by stripping away a lot of the noise around Joplin... telling her story simply and well, with some of the tone and flavor of a good novel.” — New York Times Book Review
“By far and away the most comprehensive and best-researched Joplin biography. It’s an extraordinary life, set to a legendary rock death arc, but the triumph of Janis is that George-Warren understands that the evolution of Joplin’s artistry is what matters most. Janis blossoms as she finds her voice onstage, and her act becomes something of great beauty. So too does George-Warren’s book.” — Charles R. Cross, New York Times bestselling author of Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix
“Impressive... Like Joplin herself, Janis delivers the most thrilling sort of pathos.” — Texas Observer
“Empathetic and thrilling. Like an investigative reporter, George-Warren has tracked down every detail of Janis’s young life and influences, and with loving care she has given us rare insight into this genius musician.” — Kate Pierson, The B-52s
“Exceptional.” — No Depression
“Illuminating… A top-notch biography of one of the greatest performers to emerge from a brilliant era.” — Kirkus (starred review)
“This superb biography captures singer Janis Joplin’s complex essence... Anyone who enjoys a good biography will appreciate this exceptional work.” — Library Journal (starred review)
"Masterfully researched...the significance-establishing project Joplin appreciators have been waiting for." —New York Times Book Review