Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin (Anglais) Broché – 7 juin 2001
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Much of this book deals with this evolving underground as it relates to the music, gender relationships and the merger of art and commerce. It is the story of a generation's restless and reckless life on the edge, from which Janis and many others never returned. The author conducted over 150 interviews and spent 5 years on research to produce this comprehensive work on Joplin and her era.
The Janis that emerges is a complex, multi-faceted personality that inspires admiration and sadness. The story begins in Port Arthur where Joplin's early life is described, including her first exposures to rock and folk music. It follows her to college and her first taste of the bohemian life then on to her first visit to San Francisco and eventual return to Port Arthur.
She went back to SF and her career began to take off. It is fascinating to read about the colourful personalities that she mixed with in San Francisco: the friends, the lovers and the musicians. Echols is a skilful narrator, seamlessly blending Joplin's moves and her relationships with the rise of her career. There are plenty of quotes from contemporary musicians that really illuminate this mythologized period in history.
My only minor complaint is that the author does not seem to share in the excitement as Joplin finally makes it big with Big Brother an the Cheap Thrills album - this story is just given clinically as part of the larger narrative. The various bands, Big Brother, Kozmic Blues and Full Tilt Boogie, are discussed in detail, as well as the recording process of each of the major albums: Cheap Thrills, I Got Dem Old Kozmic Blues and Pearl. The personalities behind her success, like Abert Grossman and Linda Gravenites, are sympathetically portrayed.
Echols explores Joplin's influence on various performers and notes that the heavy metal crowd picked up on her style but that she didn't directly inspire any clones. Ultimately, Janis appears as a brave, wild and very vulnerable human being who was quite likable, if somewhat volatile. There are 35 black and white photographs and the book concludes with a discography, copious notes and an index. Almost scholarly in its depth, Scars Of Sweet Paradise is yet a gripping read that will please her fans and all who are interested in the 1960s counterculture and the evolution of rock music.
Some colleges apparently now include Janis as a feminist icon, or at least woman of note, and at least some interest is now being restored in her as a major figure in popular cultural history.
Echols' work is a very well written chronology of the first major female rock star's short life. There is no sensationalism, no unsubstantiated rumour that isn't stated as being so, and no attempt by the author to over-psychoanalysis her subject.
You come away from this book with an understanding as to the enormous talent that Janis possessed, and how dealing with it with her insecure mindset ultimately led to her very untimely demise.
It is also clearly the most credible, and creditable biography of Janis currently available: Amburn's book is clearly sensationalist; Myra Freidman's (including the revised edition) comes from someone who didn't know Janis first hand that well; Dalton does not cover enough ground, and is more of a personal account; and sister Laura's "Love, Janis" is antithetical to Amburn- a glossing over of the sex and drugs in favour of just how nice, but misunderstood, Janis was.
Echols also frames her subject within the context of the times in which she lived. Again, no judgement, no sensationalism. Another prick for the bubble of the illusion of the Woodstock myth that the "hippies" were all innocent flower people. The Sixties were a tough time for many who flocked to Haight-Ashbury.
The book is also eminently readable; in short, a first-class primer of the "skyrocket chick" who died at the age of 27 trying to live up to her own projected self image- an image that was virtually the total opposite to the real, white picket fence wannabe from Port Arthur, Texas that was Janis Lyn Joplin.
On the personal side, Janis was a woman who wanted what we all want- to love and be loved. Echols defines where many of us let one another down by not being honest with others when they are in too deep.
As Janis wrote "It's so sad to be alone."
I highly recommend this biography to fans and people who are interested in the culture of the times.