Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel

This excellent biography of rock legend Janis Joplin is primarily aimed at an audience of teens in Grade 9 and up. With abundant photos, coloured reproductions of concert posters and album covers, as well as psychedelic page ornamentation and lots of white space in the page design, it is a very appealing package. The text is lively and sympathetic. Joplin's alcohol and drug use, for example, are shown within the context of her emotional insecurities and the culture of the era. Her bisexuality is noted briefly: "Always hungry for affection, she compulsively sought attention from both men and women." There's a bit more in the same paragraph, mentioning only one of her female lovers (Juli Paul).

I couldn't help but compare Joplin's life to that of Johnny Weir, since I just finished his autobiography. Both seem to have been born to be divas, but Weir's strong sense of self-worth makes quite a contrast with Joplin's personal demons. Her feelings of inadequacy were fed by such humiliations as being nominated as "ugliest man on campus" when she attended the University of Texas. Her life was short and had its share of pathos, yet her determination, talent and success inspired many women who followed her in the field of rock music.

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