by Ann Angel
published by Amulet/Abrams
Forty years after her death, Janis Joplin remains among the most compelling and influential figures in rock-and-roll history. Her story—told here with depth and sensitivity by author Ann Angel—is one of a girl who struggled against rules and limitations, yet worked diligently to improve as a singer. It’s the story of an outrageous rebel who wanted to be loved, and of a wild woman who wrote long, loving letters to her mom. And finally, it’s the story of one of the most iconic female musicians in American history, who died at twenty-seven. Janis Joplin includes more than sixty photographs, and an assortment of anecdotes from Janis’s friends and band mates. This thoroughly researched and well-illustrated biography is a must-have for all young artists, music lovers, and pop-culture enthusiasts.
This book was a labor of love. It began as a short piece that Angel was encouraged to expand. She worked on it for years, conducting email interviews with Joplin's friend and bandmate Sam Andrew (who wrote the introduction), Joplin's former road manager John Byrne Cooke and her friend and publicist Myra Friedman. Angel even forged her own friendship with Friedman.
Angel does a really good job of describing Joplin’s persona and the impact her persona had on people, but what I felt was missing was in-depth analysis of her music. There is discussion of a few song lyrics, but it seemed a little too shallow to me. I would also have liked to hear more thoughts from fans and musicians who were influenced by Joplin. I thought that the view of 1950s culture presented was a little simplistic, but I liked how Angel shows Joplin as a misfit who struggled with her self image -- something that teens can identify with.
The bibliography is a bit difficult to navigate, because personal emails, articles, books, and albums are all lumped together without any obvious indication to show which is which. Divisional headings would have been helpful. The well-documented source notes, however, are very insightful, because they include the full sources and helpful things such as links.