Janis Joplin left her Texas home in the early 1960s. She didn’t fit in in Port Arthur, where she grew up, and she wanted to make a name for herself as a musician. She did that, and more, becoming the biggest female rock star of the era. Joplin’s greatest musical success, the album, “Pearl,” was released after her death from a heroin overdose in 1970. She was just 27.
In the new biography, Janis: Her Life and Music, author Holly George-Warren says Joplin was much more of a musical and creative force than people realize.
“I got to hear this woman – … she kind of painted this persona,” George-Warren says. “She never talked about how hard she worked to get to where she was and become the musician she was. And suddenly, I hear her coming up with guitar parts, figuring out different tempos, new arrangements of the songs. She was really calling the shots.”
In her early life, Joplin wasn’t so self-assured. She had been happy and popular in her hometown of Port Arthur, but as she gravitated toward blues music, and the freer lifestyle of the 1960s, George-Warren says Joplin’s community rejected her.
“She had a very loving, supportive family. She did very well at school, and she got awards for her writing ability. And of course, she was also a very talented painter,” George-Warren says. “But once she read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road when it came out – once she discovered music that was pretty verboten in white neighborhoods in Port Arthur … she became obsessed with that music.”